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29th Aug 2023

Father who donated kidney to son marks his first day of school with family

Such an inspiring story.

While the first day of school is special for every child, one family in Cork had two reasons to mark the occasion.

It was an emotional day today as five-year-old Zack walked into Mallow CNS for the first time after receiving his father’s kidney less than a year ago.

The Stone family will remember today as a symbol of Zack’s resilience and a heartwarming reminder of his family’s will and strength.

Zach’s mother, Jessica Stone, was there to see her son and daughter, Ellie, 7, walk hand-in-hand into school with their father, Michael, who donated his kidney to his ill son.

Jessica, from East Sussex in England, and Michael, from Strasburg in France, decided to settle down and have their children in Ireland over a decade ago.

Reflecting on Zack’s journey and the challenges they faced since his birth, Jessica explained that soon after his arrival, he became ‘seriously ill’ and was ‘urgently’ transferred from Cork University Hospital to Temple Street Hospital, which would soon be known as his ‘second home.’

It was here that her son would be diagnosed with acute renal failure, with one multicystic dysplastic kidney and renal dysplasia, conditions that showed his kidneys had failed to develop properly, meaning a kidney transplant would be inevitable.

This was the beginning of a series of hospital stays and medical challenges for Zack.

Speaking today about his son’s first day of school, Michael commended his family’s strength and Zack’s fighting spirit.

“Seeing my son start school is a testament to our family’s journey for the past five years. Zack had spent fifteen months on nightly dialysis at home, a routine that often came with complications.

“Through it all, Zack was a great little patient. Zack has shown us what bravery truly means. Those nights on dialysis were tough for him, but this was his normality. Today, seeing him walk to school gives us a sense of great pride.”

Both Jessica and Michael displayed resilience from the moment they learned of Zack’s health issues, juggling careers, their then two-year-old daughter, and commenting back and forth to the hospital in Dublin.

During this time, Jessica took maternity and carer’s leave before returning to work and then followed Michael’s extended carer’s leave for two years, allowing them to share the responsibility of caring for their children.

Zack received the kidney transplant on October 3rd, 2022, a day they will never forget.

Reflecting on the anxiety of waiting at Temple Street Hospital, where her son and husband underwent surgery across the city at Beaumont Hospital, she describes it as ‘the longest day’ of her life.

“I’ll never forget that day. Waiting for news about both Michael and Zack, but looking at them now, it was all worth it.”

Michael said the decision to donate his kidney to his son was a ‘natural step as a parent’ and a ‘way of providing for his family.’

I view it not as a grand gesture but as an extension of my role. Zack can now begin a new chapter of education, fun, and making new friends at school. 

“He no longer has a restricted diet, and it’s wonderful to watch him grow and take up new hobbies like swimming and football, which he really loves. He now has a chance to enjoy a normal childhood.”

Jessica spoke of Zack’s story as a ‘testament to the power that transplantation gives’ and hopes that by sharing their journey, they can inspire others to consider organ donation.

Michael also supported his wife’s words: “Transplantation isn’t a cure, but it is an amazing treatment that gives us a new sense of normality. It’s about quality of life, about giving hope where it is needed most.”

This was underscored by both parents emphasising their respect for the medical staff who cared for their son and acknowledging their compassion in the challenging circumstances.

They conveyed their gratitude to the healthcare system for saving Zack’s life and also thanked the Irish Kidney Association for their support.