MICHAEL Mescall considers himself blessed. In his time of need, his wife and family were not slow in lending their support in the most profound manner.
Diagnosed with kidney failure in December 2005, the retired Clare County Council civil engineer, who farms in Kilmihil, needed a new kidney.
His wife, Maureen and Michael’s extended family didn’t dwell for a moment. They were prepared to hand over one of theirs and, in fact, were queuing up to do so.
“During the summer of 2011, I was placed on the transplant list and I will always be grateful to my brother, Martin; Maureen’s nephews, Martin, Michael and Andrew Kelly; their mother, Bernie and Maureen, all of whom offered me a kidney. How lucky can one person be?” Michael wondered.
Eventually, Maureen was chosen to donate her kidney to her husband. “Both of us worked hard at getting fit and keeping down the weight but this was not a chore, as we had been reasonably active all our lives. It was always a pleasure to go to Beaumont and meet the great team of transplant co-ordinators and all other medical staff, as well as the cheerful people at the Renal Support Centre, who always had a comfortable bed and a positive word.
“The funds for this centre have been and are provided by patients and their families and by friends, such as the West Clare Kidney Support Group,” Michael pointed out.
With Maureen retired from the Economics department at NUI Galway, the couples primary passions, aside from farming are GAA and amateur drama. Long before Michael was operated upon, they had to get used to life as a kidney patient.
“Consequent to detecting high blood pressure in early December 2005, I underwent the usual heart tests which proved negative but an ultra sound indicated the presence of reduced kidney function with a 40% filtration rate. The initial news was a shock to the system but on reflection over the Christmas period I accepted my situation and looked forward to a number of “free” years before dialysis would commence,” Michael recounted.
Some five and a half years passed by with regular monitoring of his position at the Galway Clinic. In March 2011, when his filtration rate was 13%, it was decided that dialysis should commence. Michael proved suitable for peritoneal dialysis (home dialysis) which was his preferred option, as he did not want to travel to Galway or Limerick three or four times a week for haemodialysis.
The husband and wife were trained in both the manual and machine at Merlin Park Renal Unit and dialysis started in May 2011. The manual system is carried out four times daily or else the patient is attached to the machine for eight hours during the night.
“The first night at home proved eventful. I set the machine around tea-time and connected myself around 10.30pm. All went well for a while and then the machine, or Dolly as she lovingly became known, started to beep at me. We checked the lines, raised and lowered the level of the machine, lay on my other side and read the manual. Tempers got a little frayed which changed to worry, as Dolly continued her tune. We finally realised that the electricity had been powered off for a few minutes earlier in the evening and had upset Dolly’s settings,” Michael said, now laughing at the memory.
“The fluids were delivered every two weeks and I was lucky in that I had a shed where I could store the two pallets of them. The empty fluid bags were collected and taken away every month and we loaded up the empty cardboard boxes and took them to the recycling centre at Kilkee, where Martin and John always had a willing hand and cheery welcome. I can imagine how difficult storage and recycling must be for somebody who lives in a second or third floor apartment in a town or city,” Michael joked.
Michael and Maureen decided that dialysis would not change their lifestyle and they continued to attend matches, drama and go away on holiday. Of course, there was some adjustment.
“In 2012, we went to Dublin for the All-Ireland football quarter-finals. The socket for Dolly’s plug was about five feet from the foot of the bed and the lead could not reach it and we forgot the extension lead. I also needed to have Dolly at my right side, so I slept across the foot of the bed,” Michael recalled.
When the couple went abroad on holiday, Baxter, the company who make the fluids, delivered them to their accommodation.
“While there, I operated the manual system and when travelling I would leave the fluid on the dash board of the car for a few minutes, where it would heat by solar power and I would dialyse wherever I was. This of course is not recommended by the medics but it worked for me and I came home infection free and feeling great from the heat and sunshine.
“I have dialysed in small rooms attached to GAA clubhouses, drama festivals at Scariff and Doonbeg and in the car while travelling, and thankfully, without infection,” he revealed.
As if Michael hadn’t enough to put up, he had to have two full hip replacements prior to the kidney transplant.
They had a July 2013 date for the transplant but Michael picked up peritonitis one week beforehand.
“The transplant was cancelled and while I was upset, Maureen was raging with me. She took off to Galway for a few days to cool down,” he laughed again.
The operated took place on October 7, 2013 in Beaumont, just days after Clare’s All-Ireland final victory and a month following Dublin’s win.
“So guess who was my surgeon? That great Dublin forward of the 1970s, David Hickey. Maureen’s kidney was removed by keyhole surgery by Gordon Smyth,” Michael revealed.
He says they were not overly tense prior to surgery.
“Neither of us felt nervous as we knew we were in good hands and this was the day we had been waiting two and a half years for. We were physically and mentally ready for the operations and that stood to us. We both made a very quick recovery. Maureen left hospital on the following Thursday and I walked the pier in Howth on Saturday with our friends, Darragh and Catherine, who called to see me. I left the hospital on Monday and we both stayed with our niece, Deirdre and her husband, Diarmuid in Kildare for over a week where we were pampered, fed and watered,” Michael recalled.
Life is now back to relative normality for both Michael and Maureen.
“I am back home in Kilmihil now and working away every day on our farm, full of energy and vitality and some days feel I could get back on the senior county team. I suppose I am a bit old for the call-up from Colm Collins though! Maureen is in terrific form also and continues to turn her hand and mind to many things,” Michael noted.
Now secretary of the Clare Branch of the Irish Kidney Association, Michael is appreciative of how lucky he has been.
“I had six people who offered me a kidney and who were prepared to go through the surgery. There are over 480 patients currently awaiting kidney transplants in Ireland and I would ask you to consider carrying an organ donor card or if you have a family member or friend who is on dialysis, you might think about what you could do for them. Do not be afraid you will get the best of care and the recovery period is short as it was for Maureen.
“I met wonderful, kind, caring nurses and doctors at Galway Clinic, Merlin Park and Beaumont. I have to acknowledge that renal patients in this country are very well looked after and that care continues. I must also complement the Clare branch of the Irish Kidney Association who do Trojan work and are complemented in their endeavours by the West Clare Kidney Support Group,” he added.
“Dialysis is a personal journey and imposes limitations on a daily basis but the impact is not just personal, it extends to family. Maureen, my wife was ever present and worked tirelessly in attending and caring for me during that period and then gave me the greatest gift of all,” her eternally grateful husband acknowledged.