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'It's a huge comfort our daughter saved someone else's life': 190 organ transplants carried out this year

Ninety donors were involved in the process – 62 people who had died and 28 living donors.

File photo of dialysis
File photo of dialysis
Image: Shutterstock/mailsonpignata

ALMOST 200 organ transplants were carried out in Ireland in 2020, the HSE has confirmed.

As of 28 December, 190 transplants were performed here this year, down from 274 transplants in 2019.

The majority of this year’s operations – 123 – were kidney transplants.

Ninety donors were involved in the process – 62 people who had died and 28 living donors.

Speaking about the figures, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said organ donation is “among the most selfless gifts we can give another”.

“I sincerely thank the families of deceased donors who at a time of great tragedy found the strength to put the needs of others first. I hope they can take some solace in the relief and joy brought to the 190 organ recipients and their families and friends.”

Screenshot 2020-12-31 at 14.44.41 Source: HSE

Donnelly said the reduction in transplants this year was partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which “made it difficult for hospitals to undertake major surgeries”.

“Organ transplantation involves dealing with very sick people who require lengthy surgery and who need round-the-clock care from our intensive care staff.

“There were 190 transplants carried out in 2020. While the number of transplants is lower than the 274 transplants carried out in 2019, it is still a great achievement given the challenges caused by the pandemic.”

Dr Catherine Motherway, the HSE’s clinical lead on organ donation, also thanked the families of deceased donors.

“They, at a time of tragedy and grief through the sudden death of a loved one, have given the gift of life to another person often a stranger and transformed the lives of many families. Their selfless act of generosity is always inspirational and humbling,” Motherway said.

She thanked healthcare staff involved in the organ transplant process for their professionalism in the last year.

Donnelly also confirmed that he intends to bring the Human Tissue Bill to Cabinet in 2021, saying it is “a priority” for him.

The legislation will provide for a soft opt-out system – where people are presumed to want to donate their organs when they die, unless they opt out.

Approximately 590 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Ireland. This includes patients on dialysis awaiting kidney transplants and patients waiting for lung, heart and liver transplants.

While some kidney donations can take place through the living donation programme, all other organ donations can only proceed if a deceased donor is involved.

“I encourage families across the country to have that conversation, discuss their intentions around organ donation and make family members aware of their wishes,” Donnelly added.

‘Huge comfort’

In 2017 Janet O’Brien’s son Luke O’Reilly (20) tragically died following an attack on Halloween night. Luke’s organs were donated and Janet said her son lives on through organ donation.

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“I instinctively knew donation was what Luke would have wanted and I find solace in knowing my son has helped others,” Janet said.

Rebecca Maher’s daughter Matilda passed away when she was just eight months old. Matilda was born with a major heart condition and was too sick to go on the transplant list.

Matilda became an organ donor and Rebecca said it gives her and her husband Brendan “huge comfort to know that Matilda has saved somebody else’s life and the life of their family”.

Last year Josh Kelly, now eight years old, was placed on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant. His mother Karen was confirmed as a suitable donor and she donated her kidney to her son.

Her kidney surgery took place in Beaumont Hospital in October and on the same day Josh received his new kidney in Temple Street Hospital.

“For me the hardest part was not being able to be with Josh during his surgery in Temple Street as I recovered in Beaumont Hospital.

“Josh is now a happy and healthy eight-year-old and I am very proud to be an organ donor. I really want to reach out and support and anyone who may find themselves in similar circumstances and let everyone know how important organ donation is in saving and improving lives,” Karen said.

To order an organ donor card, email donor@ika.ie; freetext DONOR to 50050; download the app here; or call 01 6205306.

Alternatively, a person can collect a donor card at their local pharmacy, or sign the back of their driving licence to indicate their wishes (permitting Code 115).

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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