BY HARRY WALSH
A week before his wedding, a young Donegal man was informed that his kidney function was failing and that he would have to go on dialysis.
It wasn’t the news that Kieran Murray (34) had been expecting given that he received his first transplant in 2000, at the age of 21.
Kieran received his second kidney transplant in May 2013 after 13 months receiving haemodialysis treatment at Letterkenny General Hospital. Married to Olivia he has two young children Chloe (3) and Grace (1).
Although his dialysis treatment had worked well for him he says his transplant has given him a much better quality life and thanks to his donor he can now look forward to the future with his young family. He will be taking part in the European transplant and Dialysis Games in Poland in August.
Earlier this week, the Ramelton man called into the Donegal News office to highlight Organ Donor Awareness Week. The campaign, organised by the Irish Kidney Association, will take place from March 29 until April 5.
An underage footballer with Swilly Rovers FC, Kieran had left school and taken up employment as a stone mason when he first realised that something was not quite right.
“I was getting wild pains in my groin and went to see the doctor but he was on holiday at the time and I thought no more about it. A couple of months passed and I was still getting pain but I didn’t pay too much heed until I woke up one morning and couldn’t see,” he explained.
Kieran went back to his GP who told him that his blood pressure was 180/120 and that he had been on the verge of getting a stroke.
“I went up to casualty and from there into a ward before being moved to Intensive Care. It was the first time I had been in hospital in my life and there I was in intensive care. The following day the doctor told me that I needed a transplant,” he said.
As a young, single man, Kieran admitted that he couldn’t understand why he had been singled out. The son of Annabel and David Murray, he has ten brothers and three sisters.
“Nobody in the family had bother before. My parents, grand parents, brothers and sisters – nobody. It was just one of those things. Nobody really knows that they’ve got a kidney problem until its function drops below twenty per cent and then it’s too late,” he said.
After the doctors managed to control Kieran’s blood pressure, the swelling behind his eye subsided and his eye-sight returned to normal. He was put on dialysis treatment at Letterkenny General Hospital.
“That was time consuming. I was up there three days a week – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – and had to be in hospital by 8am and didn’t get home until after 1pm.
“I was only allowed one litre of fluid every twenty-four hours and 300ml of dairy products so when you start the day with a bowl of cereal there’s not a whole pile of wriggle room left,” he said.
A typical teenager, Kieran enjoyed the occasional pint of beer but that practice had to be quickly knocked on the head.
“I wasn’t allowed any pints because of the potassium but alcohol was never a problem. If I wanted two vodkas on any given night I would have to literally starve myself the day before to stay within my limits (diet) so it wasn’t worth that,” he laughed.
Kieran was fortunate to only be on the transplant waiting list for 10 months prior to being called for his first transplant.
“At that time I was visiting my girlfriend in Dublin (later to become his wife) and, as a result I had had my dialysis on the Thursday night. By a stroke of luck I got the call on Friday morning and went into Beaumont, had the operation, and never looked back,” he said.
Fast forward seven years and the days leading up to Kieran and Olivia’s wedding.
“I had the flu and the doctors took a biopsy and told me that my new kidney was 70 per cent damaged and I knew then that I would need another one at some stage in the future. It wasn’t the best wedding present that a man could get,” he smiled.
He managed to stave off dialysis treatment for five years and in the intervening period the couple had two daughters – Chloe and Grace – whom he describes as his “two wee miracles”.
“The doctors told me I would have very little chance of having children as my kidney function was so low, so I’m a very lucky man,” he said.
Kieran received his second kidney transplant in May 2013 after 13 months receiving haemodialysis treatment at Letterkenny General Hospital.
“I was at home when the phone rang at 4am to tell me that a kidney had become available. I had switched the phone off a couple of times thinking it was my alarm before I finally took the call. I was in the car and away from the house in Ramelton by half four and in hospital in Dublin by quarter past seven. I shouldn’t really have been driving but with the adrenaline and one thing and another….” he said.
By this stage Kieran had given up his trade and opted to undertake a two-year Level 5 Information Processing Course in the VEC.
“I needed to find a job that left me less exposed to the elements so I went back to school,” he said.
Today, Kieran is a first year IT student at Letterkenny Institute of Technology. He works part time in The Lagg filling station in Milford and the future is bright.
“The kidney’s going perfect and life is good. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Siobhan Bates and all in the Donegal Branch of the Irish Kidney Association for their help and support.
“I would also urge people to carry organ donor cards. Look at the difference it has made to my life,” he said.
Last weekend Kieran took part in his first 5K race in Milford, finishing in a very respectable time of 25 minutes.
“Considering I wasn’t fit to walk 500 metres not that long ago, I think it’s pretty good going myself,” he laughed.
He is now looking forward to taking part in the European transplant and Dialysis Games in Poland this August which he has been in training for since before Christmas.
A number of fund-raising events have been organised including a table quiz in Arena 7 on April 23 and a function organised by his beloved Liverpool Supporters Club in the Station House on May 24.
The new lease of life has also allowed him to indulge in his other passion, travelling.
“We were in Sydney, New Zealand and Fiji on honeymoon. I wasn’t able to travel at all until the first transplant due to dialysis.
“While I was waiting on the second kidney we had booked to go to Westport for a week but the nearest dialysis machine was in Castlebar but they couldn’t take me because they were renovating at the time. We ended up in Sligo for the weekend,” he recalled.
Thankfully, Kieran can now enjoy a family life away from dialysis and he has much energy to enjoy his young family.
Throughout Organ Donor Awareness Week Irish Kidney Association volunteers will be distributing organ donor cards and selling forget-me-not flowers in towns and villages throughout Donegal and in Letterkenny at Dunnes Stores on 29th March, Tesco on 4th April and Aldi on 5th April.
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