A kidney transplant recipient and his brother who was his donor, have raised over £20,000 for renal care in the North.
Brothers Joe and Paul O’Connor, from Dungiven, organised a charity ‘tractor run’ and family fun day to raise money for both the Renal Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital and the Kidney Transplant Ward at Belfast City Hospital.
Joe had suffered from kidney disease for almost 10 years and his health had deteriorated because his kidneys were failing and had reached the point of requiring dialysis.
All nine siblings in the O’Connor family were tested at the Renal Unit at Altnagelvin to see if any would be a match for Joe.
Fortunately, Joe’s older brother, Paul, was an excellent match and with the support of his wife and children, he volunteered to donate a kidney to him.
Paul joked that he had a spare part that would fit Joe!
The transplant surgery was performed at Belfast City Hospital on August 31, 2016.
Paul returned home from hospital 24 hours later and was back at work within three months.
Paul added that although he had some pain for a few days after the operation, he said it’s “nothing that would put anybody off.”
Joe returned home around 72 hours after the transplant, which was a success.
It relieved Joe of the typical symptoms of kidney disease and set him back on the journey to good health. One year on, his health has improved dramatically.
Speaking at the Renal Unit on Tuesday, Joe said: “I’ve found life a whole lot better; I’ve got a lot more energy.
“It was unwell for 10 years - I was diagnosed for 10 years, but it took a long time before my kidney’s went downhill.”
Paul said he knew he was in good hands with the teams at both Altnagelvin and City Hospital in Belfast, who have performed 90 transplants this year alone.
“Thirty or 40 years ago you probably wouldn’t have had this sort of chance, things have moved on and they have got really good at it.
“I wouldn’t be worried in their hands anyway.
“Most people would get checked in Derry and they’re prepared for going to Belfast for the operation and then they receive their aftercare in Derry too,” said Paul.
Following the positive outcome from the kidney transplant the O’Connor family decided to give something back.
Paul said this was on account of the excellent care and support they received both pre and post operations at both hospitals.
“I felt it was a good result from the operation and that’s the kind of thing you can’t buy, so you have to try and help out for the next person that is coming along,” said Paul.
The brothers hail from a farming community and decided on a ‘tractor and vintage car run,’ along with a family fun day to raise funds for both the Altnagelvin Renal Unit and Belfast City Hospital Kidney Transplant Ward.
“One of our sisters suggested hosting a dance but we preferred a tractor run as it would be a bit of craic.
“We did it around the Community Hall with a fun day on the August Bank Holiday, so the ‘wains’ had a good blow out before they returned to school, the sun was out and it was a good day!
“A band played, so the sister got her dance and we got our tractor run, all parties were happy,” joked Paul.
The day was a great success and Paul and Joe were both overwhelmed by the generosity and support they received.
Over 200 tractors took part in the 15-miles tractor run on August 26 in Dungiven, raising a mammoth £10,012.50 for both hospitals.
They would like to say a massive thank you to all the people and businesses who kindly donated to the charity and to those who gave up their time to take part in the event or helped in any way.
The O’Connor family wish to extend their thanks to the Benedy Community Association for the assistance they provided and the use of their facilities.
In addition, a sincere thank you is extended to Harry and Sabina O’Kane for kindly allowing participants in the tractor run to park in their field.