AN Inch widow has urged organ donor recipients to write a letter of acknowledgement or gratitude to their donor family.
Marian Barry, Tullassa, was delighted to receive her first letter of gratitude from an organ recipient via Phyllis Cunningham, the national transplant co-ordinator, recently.
Her husband, Christy, 39, died in 1989 from a massive aneurysm while he was out shooting with some friends leaving two young daughters, aged seven and a half and 11.
He was taken to University College Hospital, Cork for emergency treatment. However, Marian recalls they were told at the time that even if they were at the gates of UCH, he would not have survived.
His two kidneys and his eyes were donated after his death.
A few weeks before her husband died, Marian watched an interview with a man on The Late Late Show, who spoke about how much a heart transplant had changed his whole life. Having seen the interview, she didn’t hesitate for a moment when the opportunity arose to give others the gift of life.
She heard at the time that an eight-year-old boy in the North had received one kidney, a 17 year-old got the other kidney, while another person had perfect sight as a result of receiving her husband’s eyes.
“It was absolutely devastating to say goodbye to Christy. However, it did give us some comfort that other families would be receiving that eagerly-awaited call for organ donation.”
Marian received the thank-you letter from the family of the eight-year-old boy who received one of Christy’s kidneys.
“It was emotional when I received this letter. I was absolutely delighted to get the letter and it was very comforting to learn that the young boy, who is now a 34 year-old man, is doing so well. At the time of the transplant, his family endured three weeks before it worked properly but once it did, it stated to work perfectly.
“It has meant so much to me that I would encourage other organ recipients to write to their donor family. It is great to receive even a few lines to confirm the transplant has been a success and how they are doing now.
“My children were also delighted to see this letter. I wasn’t expecting a letter from any of Christy’s organ recipients but getting one has meant so much to me,” she said.
In the letter, the recipient’s family, who are from the North of Ireland, thanked Marian for her “generosity, courage and kindness in donating her loved one’s kidney to their son, who received a kidney just six months short of his ninth birthday”.
“It gave him a new lease of life allowing him to participate in football. He supports Glentoran and Liverpool. Our son is now 34 and he married four and a half years ago and they both live in the same part of locality as we do. My son is a civil servant, while his wife works for a charity,” the letter went on.
“In 1989, he went into a fit as a result of high blood pressure and was taken to Ulster Hospital. The doctors and nurses were magnificent and although his heart stopped twice, they saved his life.
“We are very sorry that we haven’t been in touch with you before now to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We can’t thank you enough for your outstanding generosity. Your kindness and compassion transformed our son’s life from a sickly ailing child into a healthy and happy boy and now a happy young man.
“The death of your loved one must have been an absolute tragedy for your family. We hope that you can take some consolation from the new life it has given our son,” the letter stated.
Irish Kidney Association Clare branch treasurer, Peggy Eustace said some recipients who haven’t written feel their words may be inadequate to say thanks to the donor families for the precious gift they have received.
“The donor co-ordinators, along with the Clare branch of the Irish Kidney Association, encourage recipients to write to their donor families and to bear in mind that even one or two lines on a thank you card would be a sufficient thank you for donor families, as this lets them know they haven’t been forgotten.
“Many recipients do write every year on the anniversary of when they received their transplant and again at Christmas time. As Marian said, it is a great consolation to the donor families when they receive a letter,” she stated.
Donor families and transplant recipients will be remembered when Fr Tom Hogan celebrates the annual Mass of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for the Clare branch of the Irish Kidney Association on Sunday in Ennis Cathedral at 12 noon.
Families of organ donors, transplant recipients, their carers and the medical profession involved in organ transplantation, along with the general public, are invited. Cathaoirleach of Clare Council Council, John Crowe will also attend.
The Clare branch is aware that there are many donor families in the county who made the courageous decision to donate their loved one’s organs to help those in need. Because of this generous gift, the recipients’ lives have been transformed.
The mass is the branch’s way of celebrating the generosity of those who in their passing gave the precious gift of life to so many.
By Dan Danaher