At this stage, many of us might struggle to remember what we got for Christmas, but when a family member gives you one of their vital organs, it's probably safe to say that it’s not a gift that you’ll forget in a hurry. Having spent almost two years on dialysis, John Boyce was the grateful recipient of his daughter Trish’s kidney last month. The father and daughter spoke to Miriam O’Callaghan and John – giving his current state of health an 8 out of 10 – recounted how he went from kidney failure to kidney transplant:

"The real drama started in 2021, February, I started in University Hospital on dialysis. But prior to that, I had to go through a couple of surgical procedures to allow me to start that."

John spent many months travelling from his home in Wexford to University Hospital Waterford for dialysis sessions three times every week:

"Used to leave here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at half past six in the morning, by taxi, four hours on the dialysis machine and, all things being equal, getting home then about two o’clock in the afternoon, totally wrecked."

When John went on dialysis, Trish says, the family discussed the possibility of him needing a transplant and that’s when Trish and her brother Seán both volunteered their services:

"We knew that Dad would one day, more than likely, have to have a kidney transplant and that’s then where, I suppose, myself and my brother Seán came into play where we put our hands up and said, 'Right, Dad, if you need a new kidney, we’re going to put ourselves forward.'"

Blood tests in Beaumont Hospital – Ireland's largest provider of renal replacement therapy – then determined that Trish was a match. But that was just the start of the testing:

"Several tests in the weeks ahead, both medically and psychologically, you know, to see that both my body and my mind were in a tip top health state to go through this and to see was I going to be able to proceed with surgery and to help Dad get his life back on track."

The call that Trish got from the transplant coordinator in Beaumont to say that she had come through all the tests with flying colours is one she describes as "the best phone call of my life."

That was in July and the wait for surgery meant John had plenty to think about. He told Miriam that he was so overwhelmed to be getting a transplant at all, never mind getting one so quickly:

"I honestly can say that I thought I’d have dialysis for the rest of my days, you know? I got a golden opportunity, a chance in a million, from a daughter in a million."

The pair were admitted to Beaumont together on 30 November and they’re full of praise for the staff and how well they were looked after before, during and after the surgery. Trish was first into theatre, undergoing an operation that took over three hours. Trish remembers it as being a long day for all concerned:

"It was a long day, especially on my Mam, Bridgeen, my brother Seán, you know, all the family and friends, waiting for not just one phone call to say that I was ok, but then there was a second phone call to say that Dad had got through surgery and everything had gone well. And thank God it did."

In case you’re curious to know which kidney Trish donated (of course you are), it was the left one. John explained why:

"The new kidney, Trish’s kidney now, her left kidney, that was the easiest one for the transplant team, the surgeons in Beaumont to access, they told us, you know? So, I think it means now two in the normal place and one just on the right-hand side of the stomach. I know it’s there, there’s something different there, but it’s keeping me going, you know?"

Miriam wanted to know how Trish was feeling with only one kidney. Surprisingly, she hasn’t really noticed that much of a difference since she made a full recovery from the surgery:

"No difference whatsoever. The only difference is I just look down and see a little bit of a scar and that’s all. No, I don’t feel any different whatsoever."

Meanwhile, John is making great strides and is improving every day. Both Trish and John are keen to stress the importance of becoming an organ donor, so that other people can experience the life-saving benefits that John got from his "daughter in a million."

You can hear Miriam’s full chat with Trish and John by going here. To find out more about organ donation, go to the Irish Kidney Association webpage here.

(Photo courtesy Maria Pepper, Wexford People)