Dale Hutchinson’s mother, Audrey, has given him the gift of life on two occasions.
The first time was when he was born 35 years ago and the second was in June last year, when Dale was transplanted with her kidney.
Dale, from Gleneely in Inishowen, spoke to the Journal on Organ Donor Awareness Week about the “huge difference” his mother’s “gift” has made to his quality of life and his future.
He also urged other families to “have the conversation” with each other about their wishes surrounding organ donation.
The father of three - Adam (5), Scott (3) and Jessica (2), who is married to Lisa, was first diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease after falling ill in his late teens.
As he was just about to start college, Dale began feeling tired and low in energy and tests revealed the cause.
He attended Letterkenny hospital “for years,” where his health was monitored, but when he turned 30, “things started deteriorating” and his kidney function reduced to a level that was concerning to all.
Dale, a farm adviser, was told he could be placed on the transplant list and dialysis was discussed.
In mid-May 2017, at around the time Jessica was born, it was confirmed he would definitely need to go on the waiting list for transplant.
Dale told how his energy levels at this time were very low and he was extremely tired.
Late in 2017, it was decided that Dale would undergo dialysis at home, for eight hours at night which commenced in March 2018. For him, this was the best option, as he was self employed and this would mean he was still able to work. But, it was tough on family life.
Dale told how, as thoughts turned to transplant, he was, at first, against receiving a kidney from a living donor. He was concerned at the impact it would have on the donor’s life. But, his family was keen to help.
He explained: “There were a lot of discussions with family and my wife. Five of them went forward to get tested in January a year past.
“Mum and Dad went first and mum came back a perfect match. It was a hard decision for me - it was major surgery for mum and it impacts not just on my parents but on the rest of the family as well. We did a lot of talking but we decided to go ahead.”
The transplant took place on June 11 last year and Dale told how he felt the benefits immediately.
“On waking up after surgery, I knew instantly that things were different. I could really feel it.”
He added: “From a transplant point or view, I would have been waiting quite a long time for a new kidney. But, I’m exceptionally lucky that quite a few family members were willing to donate. Mum was very keen and she was thinking on me and not herself. It was a big operation for her.”
Dale told how he has been given a “gift” and one that has made a massive difference to his family.
“The fact I’ve no dialysis is huge. Whenever the dialysis machine was taken away, the kids were waving it goodbye. Even though they’re small, it still has an impact on them.”
Dale is exceptionally grateful for the new life he has been given and does not take it for granted.
He said: “I couldn’t put it into words how much it means to me. I know where I’d be if I didn’t have it, which can be hard to think about, but I’m fighting fit and well.
“I have to be careful when working around the farm and I’m on immunosuppressant drugs, so pick up infections easily. But it’s a very small price to pay.”
Dale admitted how it was “hard” to have the conversation around donation, but urged every family to do so.
“Everyone should be having that talk. Something so sad for them can be a real gift to others. Lots of families don’t know the wishes of their relations. I feel that organ donation is so important. My life is very different because of it.”
Dale is also keen to pay tribute to the Irish Kidney Association and the team at Beaumont Hospital. He explained how the IKA provides a house on the grounds of the hospital for families of those undergoing transplant.
Dale said this was a fantastic asset to his family, who were able to be near him and it also allowed his children to visit, which was a “real boost.”
He added: “The care you get is second to none and the support is just invaluable.”
As a way of saying thank you, he is organising a fundraising dance in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel in Buncrana on June 14th. Music will be provided by the hugely popular Johnny Brady and there will be a draw on the night for top prizes. Tickets can be bought through Dale or at the hotel.
Almost 10 months on from the transplant and life is very different for Dale. He is happy and healthy, as is his mum, who lives next door.
He will forever be grateful to her and to all his family for their support and help.
Dale told: “I’ve Mum to thank for the whole thing. Without her, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Organ Donation Awareness Week runs until April 6th. See www.ika.ie or Irish Kidney Association on Facebook for more information on organ donation and organ donor cards.