Cork kidney recipient writes letters of gratitude for getting gift of life

Grateful kidney transplant recipient Sean Cashman writes a letter to his donor’s family every year. As part of a series coinciding with Organ Donor Awareness Week 2022, Sarah Horgan hears his story
Cork kidney recipient writes letters of gratitude for getting gift of life

Sean Cashman, who received a kidney transplant a number of years ago, with his nephew (nine-year-old Ryan Cashman).

AN INSPIRING hospital porter opened up about working night shifts in the same building where he underwent dialysis three times a week in the year leading up to a life-changing transplant.

Sean Cashman from Ballyphehane was speaking as part of Organ Donor Awareness Week 2022 — taking place this week (April 23 to April 30).

Organised by the Irish Kidney Association in association with the HSE’s Organ Donation Transplant Ireland, this year’s campaign features photographs of people from all walks of life enjoying a collective 410 years of extra life courtesy of organ donors.

Seventeen years post-transplant, Sean now finds himself transferring Cork University Hospital dialysis patients experiencing the same issues he once battled.

“I used to work from 8am, have my dinner at 6pm, and then come back for dialysis from 8pm to 12.30am. I did that three times a week. I was lucky because I didn’t have that many problems on dialysis.

“My colleagues were great and were always really supportive.”

He described how seeing other patients with agonising health conditions offered him perspective on the situation.

“When I saw the things that patients in the hospital had gone through it made me realise how lucky I was and that I had to get on with life.”

The life-changing phone call finally arrived for Sean on his mother’s birthday.

“I was working that morning so she had received her card the night before. It was the best birthday gift I could have given her. I spent Christmas day in hospital.

“At one stage it looked like there might be a small chance of rejection but to this day everything has been fine. It was a near-perfect match and I’ve been told I might even get another 20 years out of the transplant.”

It’s on this day every year that Sean pens a letter to his donor’s family.

“I write a letter to them every year. I also go to mass on that date and light a candle and pray for them. I often think about how such a great day for one family was a tragic one for another.

“They have given me a chance of a better life. Without their sacrifice, I wouldn’t have the freedom I have today. I like to remind them of that every year and hope that it makes a difference.”

CONDITION

Sean’s battle started when he was diagnosed with a hereditary condition called PKD — Polycystic Kidney Disease — at the age of just 20.

His mum, who was also a transplant recipient, had suffered from the same condition before passing away last year following 10 years on dialysis.

“I lost my mum in February of last year. She had a massive stroke after going through so much in her life. We had seen her come back from so much but this was the one time she didn’t bounce back. I think all the effects of the dialysis over the years had weakened her body.”

Sean’s story has given hope to others in similar situations.

“There are going to be patients who don’t want to know my story. Others take a little hope from seeing the normal life you can lead after a transplant.”

Sean is encouraging families to discuss their wish to become donors during Organ Donor Awareness Week 2022.

Those who wish to support organ donation can do so by carrying the organ donor card, permitting the inclusion of Code 115 on their driver’s licence, or installing the ‘digital organ donor card’ App on their smartphone. 

Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the website www.ika.ie or to your phone. Readers can also contact the Irish Kidney Association by phone on 01-6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.

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