When Matthew McNeive’s college friends head down the pub on a Friday night, he rushes to get to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin in time for life-saving kidney dialysis.
The 23-year-old from Knock, Co Mayo, is one of 600 people across the country waiting for an organ transplant.
News that legislation will be passed to allow for an “easy opt-out”, where everyone is deemed willing to donate their organs unless they explicitly object during their lifetime, has given new hope to get a much needed kidney transplant soon.
“It was introduced in France a few years ago and we hoped Ireland would follow,” he said.
The announcement that the enabling bill had been approved by Cabinet yesterday was a welcome surprise and would build on the existing goodwill among the public to donate their organs after death, he said.
“I have yet to meet a person who disagrees with this or donates organs when someone has unfortunately died. Already a million people have indicated their availability on their driver’s license.”
Relatives will continue to be consulted under this proposed new system and hundreds of people who need to give life are anxious for the Bill to go through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible.”
Matthew was in the womb when doctors discovered complications from a blockage in his bladder, which destroyed one kidney and damaged the other.
“I lived on one kidney until 2009, but eventually it gave up.” She ended up on dialysis at home, carefully managed by Bernadette’s mother, for twelve hours five days a week.
When he got the call for a kidney transplant nine months later, aged just 11 – thanks to the generosity of a deceased donor to whom he is grateful – his life changed dramatically and he was able to do all his favorite activities, including swimming.
“I had a great eight and a half years, but I was rejected in September 2018 when I was starting university in Dublin.”
He was back on kidney dialysis at Beaumont Hospital, three or sometimes four times a week.
When Covid-19 hit, he returned home to Mayo and underwent dialysis at Mayo General.
The clinical measurement science student involves work in diagnostic tests and is specialized in cardiology. He is currently in his final year and an inpatient at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin.
Last spring, he received the call he was waiting for and at 4:20 a.m. he went to the emergency hospital where a donor kidney became available.
“They did all my blood and I was an hour away from surgery when I was told that the donor had an underlying condition and was not suitable. It was the only call I’ve had in four and a half years.”
He has to travel to Beaumont for dialysis on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings for dialysis.
The first year of the pandemic affected transplants even more.
The morning after dialysis, he can feel weak, but he says it’s “something you live with.”
Dietary restrictions are added to the regimen to make sure it doesn’t have too much potassium or other buildup, so foods like potatoes need to be monitored.
He had his first holiday abroad this summer – a week in Malaga, Spain. But it took enormous planning to ensure he could access dialysis at a local hospital.
“There is no question that I will get a J1 visa for the United States, just like my friends. Things like that can get you down,” Mr McNeive said.
He longs to get back to the regular swimming—without the dialysis attachments—that he enjoyed as a child after his first transplant. “There were no wild years in college. As a dialysis patient, you keep yourself grounded.”
He will graduate in May and is grateful that the new organ donation system is on the way for all people hoping for a normal life after a transplant.
The Irish Kidney Association has welcomed the Government’s focus on the life-affirming and life-saving act of donating organs for transplant. The core public messages, in every country, around the topic focus on the importance of sharing your wishes with your family so they are in no doubt about your views on organ donation, a spokesman said.