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'A life-altering experience': Three kidney donations have united these Cork grandfathers in friendship

Organ Donor Awareness Week takes place until 7 April.

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TWO GRANDFATHERS WHO had never met each other previously have said they forged a lifelong friendship as they were brought together after receiving organs from the same donor.

Cork natives Charlie Keane and Dermot O’Connell, aged 67 and 70 respectively, both underwent life-saving kidney transplants at Beaumont Hospital within hours of each other recently under the same transplant surgeon, Dilly Little.

Just weeks later, one of the men’s friends, 77-year-old Donal O’Flynn, was also called for a transplant as a result of another deceased donor.

“It was a huge coincidence that another patient, Charlie Keane, who like me also attended dialysis treatment at the same hospital as me, was called for a kidney transplant on the same as day me,” O’Connell said.

“Remarkably, it took 10 days for the transplant kidneys to start working properly in both of us and we were carefully monitored and required three dialysis treatments before the kidneys functioned on their own,” he said.

Sharing the same donor’s kidneys is such a unique life-altering experience and Charlie and I have become friends since.

O’Connell said that it came as a huge surprise that within weeks of the pair’s transplants, that O’Flynn was also called for his kidney transplant.

O’Connell and O’Flynn had been friends for over three years and had both been on the same early morning dialysis shifts at Cork University Hospital, three days a week for their four-hour treatments.

O’Flynn, the eldest of the three men, had spent a lengthy nine years receiving dialysis treatment before his transplant came along, while O’Connell, the second eldest, had been undergoing his treatment for three and a half years.

Keane wasn’t left waiting as long, as he was only receiving his dialysis treatment for nine months before he was called for his transplant.

“I know that I also speak for my two friends when I say that the three of us are immensely grateful to our deceased donors and their families for our renewed health and the second chance at life that we can now enjoy with our families,” O’Connell said.

‘I didn’t hold out hope’

Having spent nine years on the transplant waiting list, O’Flynn said he had resigned himself to being on dialysis for the rest of his days.

“I didn’t hold out much hope for a transplant to come along,” he said.

However, since receiving the transplant, he said that he feels like “a much younger man” than he had for “such a long time”.

“I now can look forward to the impending arrival of my sixth grandchild and spending more quality time with my life Helen and my growing family,” he said.

Keane added: “My way to thank and honour my donor is to continue to embrace the extended life that I have been given by keeping active through swimming and continuing to appreciate spending more time with my wife Caroline and my family.

I now have made a new friend in Dermot O’Connell. We have a unique friendship now as we have both experienced organ failure and can be grateful to the same conor for our transplants.

Record number of transplants

A record-breaking 311 organ transplants from 99 deceased organ donors were carried out in Ireland last year, according to Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland’s annual report.

This is an increase of 11% on the figures from 2016.

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Kidney transplants from deceased donations had increased to 141 with 51 living donor kidney transplants undertaken at the National Renal Transplant Centre in Beaumont Hospital.

There were 62 liver transplants at the National Liver and Pancreas Transplant Service at St Vincent’s University Hospital.

At the National Heart and Lung Transplant Service at the  Mater Hospital, 16 heart transplants and 36 lung transplants took place.

Organ donor week

Charlie Keane, Dermot O’Connell and Donal O’Flynn joined international rugby player Tomás O’Leary to mark the Organ Donor Awareness Week at the campaign’s Cork launch.

The annual awareness campaign is organised by the Irish Kidney Association, supported by Organ Donation Transplantation Ireland, and takes place until 7 April.

Organ donor cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 1890 543 639 (lo-call) or by texting the word DONOR to 50050 (free). More information can be read here. People can also download the IKA’s digital donor card here.

More details about P2P can be read here.

Read: Michael has had three transplants and is helping other patients come to terms with kidney failure

More: ‘People have clearly been inspired’: There have been 1,400 organ donor cards requested in the past fortnight

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