Northern Ireland

Seamus Kenny's new lease of life from paired donor scheme

Seamus and Pauline Kenny Image copyright Cliff Donaldson
Image caption Seamus and Pauline Kenny went through surgery on the same day

A man from County Down is celebrating a new lease of life thanks to a paired organ donation scheme.

Seamus Kenny, who lives in Hillsborough but is originally from County Galway, says he is "very, very lucky" to have a new kidney after suffering from a degenerative condition for more than 15 years.

His wife Pauline was a willing donor but was not a match so they subscribed to the scheme that attempts to pair donors and recipients across the UK.

They got a match within months of enrolling with the scheme, and last June they went through surgery on the same day to complete Seamus's journey back to full health.

And, as a gesture of thanks for their treatment and care, the pair have helped raise £100,000 for the renal unit at the City Hospital in Belfast.

Seamus was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 1997, although the diagnosis came as no great surprise.

His father was a sufferer, and two of Seamus's sisters and a brother also have the hereditary condition.

'Looked dreadful'

The disease causes cysts to form in the kidneys, and Seamus suffered a 4% annual loss in function from the time of his diagnosis.

Because of the gradual nature of the decline he only really started to notice the effects a couple of years ago.

Pauline, who is originally from County Cavan, says: "Seamus probably didn't feel any different because the decline was 4% a year, but for two years before I saw a significant difference.

"His quality of life had got quite difficult, he was tired all the time, he had no appetite, he had no energy and he looked dreadful."

A conversation with his doctor in 2011 had already raised the possibility of either a transplant or dialysis, but Pauline's incompatibility as a donor was a disappointment.

But when she said she was still willing to be a donor they entered the shared donor scheme.

Pauline adds: "It is a very well-structured scheme and lots of families find themselves in the same situation as Seamus and I were in - you want to donate to your loved one but you are not a suitable donor."

The scheme runs a computer program four times a year to try and match up couples, and Seamus and Pauline struck lucky on their second run through the system.

Seamus says: "On 7 April last year I went for my normal appointment because I was being seen regularly at that stage, every two months or every month depending on how my condition was.

'Dream come true'

"I had got a stay of execution from dialysis the month previously, and when I was told it was good news I assumed it was another stay of execution. But it was that they had found a match for us.

"We were stunned, it was like a dream come true."

Image caption Polycystic kidney disease causes cysts to form in the kidney

The couple had two months to prepare for their surgeries, and things could not have gone better.

Pauline says: "This happens all the time, we're not that unique, lots of families have been through what we've been through.

"We went through surgery on the same day. The couple that we were paired with were in a different centre, and in the morning the donors have their kidneys removed and then they are flown at the same time, mine over to Britain and the donor kidney in Britain was flown to Belfast.

"Then the recipients, the two patients, go to theatre in the afternoon and the kidneys are transplanted."

Pauline was out of hospital within three days, and Seamus was back home after a week.

They pledged to give something back to the City Hospital, and Seamus linked up with his company, food processing and agribusiness firm ABP, for a fundraising ball.

It raised £60,000 last November, and that was supplemented by a £40,000 donation from the Goodman Foundation.

"Pauline and I received extraordinary care in the City Hospital and I am certain this money will benefit many, many others with kidney disease," adds Seamus.

The functionality of his kidney is back to about 60-70%, "but all you need is about 25% to function normally", he says.

He has been given a clean bill of health at the hospital, and considers himself "very, very lucky".

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