THE FATHER of a young boy recovering from a kidney transplant has credited a living donor with giving his family their lives back.
Cork City firefighter Steven O'Brien's nine-year-old son Aidan suffers from a rare kidney condition known as Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis and had required a dialysis machine in the 18 months leading up to his transplant. It was initially hoped that one of Aidan's aunts - identical twins Emily Barrett and Evelyn Burke - would be a match for the transplant. However, in an unexpected twist, Emily's husband Tommy Barrett surfaced as the only suitable donor.
“The three of them were tested together. Evelyn and Emily were almost fighting over who donated,” Mallow local Steven laughed.
“But in the end, it was Tommy who was the match. It was a very nerve-racking time. If Aidan got so much as a sniffle before the surgery it wouldn't have gone ahead. When 'T-day' finally came it was as if a weight had been lifted from our shoulders.
“You will do anything when you’re desperate and we prayed this day would finally arrive. We have been told this will be a very intense year but are ready for whatever is thrown at us. The transplant couldn't have come at a better time. Dialysis was getting harder and harder. If the transplant had arrived any later Aidan would have been forced to switch to Hemodialysis which would have involved travelling to Dublin three days a week. Due to a setback we still have to visit hospital in Dublin twice a week. However, we hope that in time this can be sorted. Aidan is now itching to get back to school and hopes to return after Easter.”
He acknowledged Tommy’s selfless gesture, adding:
“It’s hard to express our gratitude towards Tommy in words. He hasn’t just given Aidan his life back but the rest of our family as well. We will be grateful to him for the rest of our lives. During the sunny weather a few weeks ago we all celebrated with a trip to the Glenbeigh, Kerry where we went out for dinner and took a walk in the mountains. Dr Dilly Little and Gordon Smith who carried out the surgeries also deserve a huge thank you.”
The nine-year-old has already achieved two out of three ambitions following his life-changing surgery in Temple Street Hospital.
“One of the things Aidan wasn't allowed before his transplant was Coca-cola so he had always dreamt of drinking it. Funnily enough, the first thing he was prescribed after his surgery was a bottle of coke to keep his phosphate levels up. He is now so full of life and sometimes even eats three dinners, such is his appetite.”
Aidan will also now be able to travel abroad, something he was previously unable to do.
“Aidan had been nominated to go to Disneyland, Paris with the Cork City Hospitals Children's Club and now will be able to travel with them later this year. The only thing he hasn't been able to do yet is to go swimming due to the line going into his heart. While on dialysis he wasn't able to swim so one of his dreams is to visit a water park.”
The fourth class pupil of Burnfort National School has some long term ambitions too including pursuing a career as a doctor.
“Setting up a dialysis machine is very complicated. However, if we had left to Aidan he would have known exactly what to do. If something was wrong with the set up he could spot it straight away. Despite his young age he's extremely intelligent and wants to be a doctor when he grows up. We've since learned that a lot of people who underwent transplants as kids have gone on to work as doctors in hospitals.”
Steven praised his wife Vicki for keeping the family strong.
“Vicki is an amazing mother. I work nights a lot which means that Vicki has done most of the work when it comes to Aidan’s dialysis. She never complains and is the most humble and modest person you will ever meet.”
The father of three is encouraging the public to carry organ donor cards.
“I’m really in favour of an opt-out system. Making the decision to donate is the most selfless thing you will ever do.”
Organ Donor Awareness Week runs until today. To find out more about becoming a donor visit www.ika.ie