Joe Brolly’s parents have spoken of their “overwhelming relief” after their eldest child made the incredible decision to donate his kidney to his friend, Shane Finnegan.
Anne and Francie Brolly told the ‘Journal’ that until their son stepped on the plane for London last week, they had to keep the remarkable act a secret from their children and families.
Hugely grateful of the support from the Dungiven community, the well known couple said it was “a huge relief” the operation had gone well.
“I suppose the best way to describe it is overwhelming relief,” mum Anne, a Sinn Fein councillor in Limavady, told the ‘Journal’. “We couldn’t tell anyone about it until Joe stepped on the plane. I couldn’t even tell my sisters.”
The couple revealed their barrister son, who also writes a GAA column for the ‘Journal’, cycled from Belfast to his childhood home in Dungiven to tell his parents the news.
“Joe told us a couple of months ago and I don’t remember how much of a reaction I had to be honest,” said Francie. “It was a worry, but it’s not the sort of thing you say not to do, but ‘go for it, surely’. The way Joe put it to me was, it was going to save this chap’s life. In many ways Joe hadn’t much of a choice; he felt he must do this and I agreed. I’d like to think if I was in that position I would do the same thing and, of course, it was matter for Emma, Joe’s wife and their five children. All in all, it was the right thing to do.”
Francie, a veteran Sinn Finn politician and folk musician, said his son’s biggest worry was that he would let his friend, Shane down.
“Touch wood, it’s all going well,” said Francie, who said the last time he saw Joe prior to the operation was when they travelled to Croke Park together to watch the All-Ireland hurling final replay.
“I went with him from Belfast and I suppose, really we didn’t speak that much about it,” he said, “I wished him luck.”
‘Generosity of Spirit’
Anne said her son has always had a ‘generosity of spirit’ about him, which has been nurtured through his upbringing in Dungiven.
“People here in the town have been saying ‘you could understand if it was a family member’, but Joe has always been generous with his time and that’s because he had the benefit of being born into a town where people always went the extra mile, and you see, for Joe, the GAA is like an extended family to him.
“The thing about Joe is he has a lot of faults, but the one thing about him is he has never lacked in generosity. He is a great community person.”
Anne said it was only when she saw the first picture of Joe and Shane together in Guy’s Hospital, London, the magnitude of what her son had done hit home.
“I was overcome with emotion,” she said.
“Up until that moment I thought, well he‘s doing this, it’ll be alright and that’s that. We are just relieved more than anything. Joe is a great community person and this is an uplifting story for all of us.”
Francie said more than anything, it’s been an emotional time for the families.
“It’s very emotional, hugely emotional,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of phone calls, and people don’t say too much but think ‘fair play to Joe’. Everyone is delighted and obviously in Dungiven, a bit proud too. It’s a good news story for a change.
“ We’re mostly relieved, but proud too. It’s just a huge relief.”
The couple say there is no way Joe could have come through without the help and support of his wife Emma over the past several months.
Since news of Joe’s selfless act spread, Anne said he has been inundated with hundreds of phone calls and texts.
“He says he has about a 1000 texts,” said Anne, who said she and Francie hope to travel to London on Wednesday to see their son. If all goes to plan, she said Joe may come home next Friday.
In the meantime, the couple thanked everyone who has called them and the families with words of support, with Anne adding: “You know the hand of God must be there somewhere, because 98% of the population was incompatible.
“I think the hand of God was there.”