Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to kidney patient who lived for 48 years after his transplant

Bob Arnott was the 14th person here to have a kidney transplant
Bob Arnott was the 14th person here to have a kidney transplant

By Lisa Smyth

Northern Ireland's longest surviving kidney transplant patient has passed away.

Bob Arnott, who was in his 80s, received his donor organ more than 48 years ago.

He was the 14th local person to undergo the life-saving operation.

A former chair of the Northern Ireland Kidney Research Fund (NIKRF), Mr Arnott was heralded as playing a crucial role in supporting medical research that has helped to change lives around the world.

He was also regarded as a beacon of hope for people who spend time on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Billy Thompson, vice chair of NIKRF, said: "Bob has played a very large and invaluable role in the organisation from its very early stages.

"He was so passionate about the importance of organ transplants and he helped to raise awareness of the importance of research and of organ donations.

"Northern Ireland now leads the way in kidney transplants and ranks highly in Europe for having the highest number of living kidney donations.

"He played a leading part in growing the charity to what it is today and over the years we have helped to fund research which has resulted in papers on renal failure being presented at medical conferences around the world. Bob was no small part of that."

Mr Arnott's health had been declining in recent years, but it is not believed this was connected to his transplant.

In 2011 he took part in a UTV documentary in which he described how he had been able to lead a very active and normal life following his surgery, with no special dietary requirements.

He was left heartbroken by the death of his son Michael from motor neurone disease the following year, aged just 46.

Last night Jo-Anne Dobson, who has campaigned for the introduction of an opt-out transplant system in Northern Ireland in light of her son's experience of renal failure, said she was saddened to learn of Mr Arnott's passing.

The ex-UUP MLA, who donated one of her kidneys to son Mark in March 2018, said: "The kidney family, those of us who have donated a kidney or received a kidney, are connected through our experience, so his passing will be felt very keenly by that community. He worked so hard over the years on fundraising and gave so many people hope as well.

"He was an inspiration to people who were waiting for a transplant because they saw how well he had done and how healthy he had been, and that gave them hope that they would be all right too.

"People aspired to be like him and the whole kidney transplant family will feel like we have lost one of us.

"I am an ambassador for Kidney Care UK and I give a lot of talks to raise awareness, and I always like to talk about people because it gives a sense of the physical and emotional toll of a kidney transplant, but Bob showed us what can be achieved.

"My heartfelt sympathies go to his friends and family."

A funeral service for Mr Arnott, who is survived by wife Norma and son Alan, will be held at Drumbeg Parish Church on Wednesday at noon.

It is now 50 years since the transplant programme was established in Belfast.

During that time more than 2,400 kidney transplants have been performed on patients aged between two and almost 80. From that figure, 661 kidneys have been donated by living donors - when a healthy person gives a kidney to someone who needs a transplant.

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