Firefighter’s brave decision to donate his kidney saved his brother’s life

Firefighter’s brave decision to donate his kidney saved his brother’s life
Cork based fireman Ger Dolan with his brother Jimmy who received a kidney from Ger pictured at Anglesea Street fire station. Picture: John Allen

CORK-BASED firefighter Ger Dolan has claimed it was 'an easy decision' to donate his kidney to his older brother twelve months ago.

The 27-year-old fourth-generation firefighter told the story of his heroic deed as Organ Donor Awareness Week continues.

Ger donated his kidney after his 32-year-old brother Jimmy had one irreversibly damaged in 2013 when a virus attacked his organs.

The virus - vasculitis - left Jimmy fighting for his life. He required regular dialysis treatment.

Ger Dolan (2nd left)at passing out parade in Cork in 2014 before kidney donation to brother Jimmy (right) with proud parents Marie and Frankie. Picture: John Allen
Ger Dolan (2nd left)at passing out parade in Cork in 2014 before kidney donation to brother Jimmy (right) with proud parents Marie and Frankie. Picture: John Allen

However, his prayers - and his family's - were answered when his younger brother secretly contacted doctors to see if they were a match.

Jimmy's condition left him with little hope as he faced up to 12 hours of dialysis per week.

In search of employment, the Galway man relocated to Cork city as CUH offered the prospect of evening dialysis shifts.

He said, “This worked well for me and I didn’t disclose my condition to my employer as I carried out my work effectively. However, in October 2016, I took a really bad turn and collapsed outside my workplace. I was rushed to hospital where I presented with high blood pressure, severe headache, vomiting and loss of eyesight. It was discovered that I had internal bleeding relating to my vasculitis illness and I required a blood transfusion.” 

In October 2016, Ger secretly contacted Beaumont Hospital to investigate if he was a suitable donor for his brother.

On St. Stephen’s Day in 2016, he announced his brave decision to donate his kidney to Jimmy to his unsuspecting family when they gathered for breakfast. By January 2017 the men were undergoing rigorous physical and psychological tests and within weeks they received the happy news that Ger was a perfect match. In mid-March 2017, the two men underwent the living donor transplant.

The brothers’ fireman father Frankie said he had some concerns initially when he heard about Ger’s decision to donate his kidney.

“I wasn’t familiar with a living donation I was concerned that my two sons might die while going for serious operations at the same time," he said.

Thankfully, Frankie said, it all worked out in the end.

“It’s wonderful that Jimmy is doing so well since his transplant as a few years ago I was told in the hospital that he might not live. Ger has bounced back quickly after his donation and he even took a trip to Poland and then Dubai within days of being discharged from Beaumont hospital.” 

Speaking about his donation Ger said: “Sure, why wouldn’t I donate. I saw my brother was struggling and he might have been waiting for many more years for a donor to come along while on the transplant waiting list.

“It was an easy decision for me and I did it without reservation or any persuasion. A year later, we are both back to work full time enjoying what we do and living life to the full. Ger quipped. 

“I would do it all over again if needed but as I only have one kidney now I might end up in trouble myself then!"

Jimmy and Ger Dolan, pictured at Anglesea Street fire station. Picture: John Allen.
Jimmy and Ger Dolan, pictured at Anglesea Street fire station. Picture: John Allen.

Speaking about his brother’s kindness Jimmy said, “I owe huge thanks to Ger who on his own merit decided he wanted to donate a kidney to me. He has given me life back.” 

Just three months after Jimmy's operation, the family tragically lost their cousin Orla in a traffic collision. Her family opted to donate the organs after seeing the good that could be done from such a gesture.

Frankie said, “One of the reasons why her family were moved to donate her organs was because of the awareness of how Jimmy’s life had been saved. Orla’s organs saved the lives of five people as her heart, one lung, her liver and two kidneys were donated. This gives her parents and our extended family huge consolation in the knowledge that other people’s lives have been saved.” 

There are approximately 550 people in Ireland awaiting life-saving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants. Thanks to the gift of organ donation almost 3500 transplanted people in Ireland are enjoying extended life.

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association tel. 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. Visit www.ika.ie/card Organ Donor Awareness Week, which is organised by the Irish Kidney Association, takes place from March 31 until April 7.

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