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'Me and my wife took part in a kidney swap arrangement and I would do it again'

Husband and wife Karen and Patrick Bradley travelled to Coventry

A KIDNEY SWAP is an unusual arrangement and one that is not carried out in Ireland.

However, that is exactly what Karen Bradley and her husband, Patrick, from Carndonagh, Donegal underwent in Coventry in June 2014.

A paired kidney exchange, also known as a “kidney swap”, occurs when a living kidney donor is incompatible with the recipient, and so exchanges kidneys with another donor/recipient pair.

Kidney exchange 

Patrick said they are the only the second couple in Ireland to use a kidney exchange arrangement.

Karen had suffered poor health since having her first child, Leanne, who is now 34.

It was only then discovered that her own kidneys hadn’t developed since birth.  

Her health deteriorated further when she became pregnant with her second child Patrick Junior seven years later and she had to spend most of the pregnancy in hospital under medical supervision.

Somehow, although very sick for years, she managed to stave off dialysis treatment until two years ago and she underwent an operation at Beaumont Hospital to have one of her kidneys removed.

“While over the years we as a family knew she wasn’t well, it wasn’t until the dialysis that we understood straight away just how sick she was. You know it is serious then,” said Patrick.

“The children grew up knowing she was unwell, but that was different.”

Her husband Patrick wanted to donated a kidney but, to their disappointment, he wasn’t a suitable match.

Transplant

“We almost gave up hope of ever getting a transplant once we found out I wasn’t a suitable match,” said Patrick.

However, Beaumont Hospital put them in touch with a UK hospital about a paired exchange programme which meant that he could donate his kidney in the UK to a stranger if a suitable living donor was found for Karen.  

It can be rare that one is suitable, with only about four matches, explained Patrick, but there was success for the husband and wife, who travelled to Coventry for the operation last May.

“Karen was more worried about me getting involved than I was, but we looked in to it and I said we would give it a shot. I was accepted to the programme. Not everyone is suitable,” said Patrick

The operation had to be called off however as the donor had caught an infection just before the operation was to proceed and they had to return to Ireland.

“I tried to tell Karen to keep her spirits up but she really thought that was it, it wasn’t meant to be,” said Patrick, who added that the couple in the UK said they were very sorry.

Fortunately they were called back to Coventry the following month and this time everything went to plan and the operations were a success. 

“She went in the day before me, while the other couple were in a different hospital.”

Life transforming 

Patrick explained that they had not been in contact with the other couple yet, saying that they had planned to wait a year before sending a letter to see how they were getting on.

Karen says the transplant has transformed her life.

“Now I have to tell her to slow down and stop doing things,” said Patrick.

“There really is no holding her back since the operation. She is like a different person, everything has changed for the better. She is eating things she never would have before, doing things she never would before and getting to spend more time with the grandchildren. It really has given the family a great kick to see her doing so well.”

Patrick explained that only recently she travelled to Scotland by herself, something she never would have been able to do when she was ill. “I used to have to go with her everywhere, but now she is so independent,” he said.

“You really don’t realise how important the donor card is until the situation arrives at your door.”"If I could, I would do it all again, no problem. For a few days of being sore, I got to change someone’s life.”

The Irish Kidney Association is promoting the week and urging people to have a family discussion around the subject of organ donation. You can offer your support for organ donation through donor cards, smartphone app, driver’s licence (code 115) and Freetext numbers. You can text “kidney” to 50300 and €2 will be donated from your mobile phone account to the IKA. 

Throughout the week, IKA volunteers will be distributing organ donor cards and selling forger-me-not flower emblems (the symbol of transplantation) in cities, towns and villages throughout the country.

Read: ‘Our little boy always wanted to be a superhero and he became one in death’>

Read: ‘Everyday I pray for that special person who saved my life’>

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