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17th Jun 2023

‘Thank you dad for saving me’- Tipperary teen praises dad after kidney donation

Kat O'Connor

This Father’s Day will be extra special for one dad after his kidney donation saved the life of his 18-year-old daughter.

With her new lease on life from her kidney failure which blighted most of her teens, Ali Kelly from Newport, Co Tipperary, has more reason than most to celebrate the 1st transplant anniversary with her doting father Joe Kelly on Father’s Day.

It was a case of third time lucky for the father and daughter as on two occasions previously the scheduled transplant operations at Beaumont Hospital were deferred at the eleventh hour.

However, on July 4th, Ali’s world finally changed for the better when doctors approved the living donor retrieval and kidney transplant operations.

Ali and her parents Joe and Virginia, both north Limerick natives, will be celebrating Father’s Day together with a special meal. Now that Ali is independent of her grueling dialysis treatment the family has made plans to spend the first transplant anniversary with a holiday in sunny Spain, their first holiday abroad in years.

Ali was born with a hereditary kidney condition, Polycystic Kidney Disease, which causes cysts in the kidney. She spent much of her early years at Crumlin Children’s Hospital and was tube-fed until the time she was four years old when, following a year of nightly dialysis, she underwent her first kidney transplant. The transplant was made possible by a deceased donor which allowed Ali to enjoy a normal childhood and early teens.

She was 14-year-olds when her kidney transplant began to fail causing her to have to return to dialysis treatment at the age of 15 which continued for two and a half years. Initially, the dialysis treatment involved Ali being hooked up to a dialysis machine at home every night for 14 hours.  After almost two years she progressed to hospital-based hemodialysis treatment. By then she was a patient at Temple Street Children’s Hospital and had to travel there four days a week, to undergo five hours of dialysis treatment, which also involved a four-and-a-half-hour round trip.

This time finding a suitable kidney donor for Ali was complicated by the high antibody levels from her previous transplant and a blood transfusion.  Joe didn’t hesitate to put himself forward to be screened as a potential living kidney donor.

In describing his delight that the transplant has been a success, Joe said, “It is life-changing for all of us. It’s so rewarding for our family to see Ali enjoying good health and getting her life back. There was no sacrifice on my part. It was awful to watch her struggle and donating my ‘spare’ kidney to her was the easiest decision to make.”

Joe continued, “When a family member is sick it affects everyone. Ali’s mother Virginia also put herself forward to be Ali’s kidney donor but she wasn’t a suitable match. Virginia did the lion’s share of caring for Ali since she was born.  Virginia brought her to Dublin on three weekdays for her treatment, while I continued working, and I brought Ali on Saturdays. We had little family time and it was mentally draining on all of us.”

“Before my transplant, I was so weak and could barely walk from one room to another without being out of breath”

“She is very resilient, and we are all very proud of her and enjoy watching her grow into a young independent woman with her whole life ahead of her,” the proud dad added.

Ali said she is now feeling better than ever and is able to live a normal life again:

“I feel great now. I have loads of energy. Before my transplant, I was so weak and could barely walk from one room to another without being out of breath. I can now leave the house without feeling exhausted.

“My diet and fluid are not restricted anymore, and I can really enjoy my food now. I no longer have tubes attached to my body and I am not feeling as self-conscious.  It’s great that I can wear whatever clothes I want now, not having to consider my weight fluctuating or experiencing bloating. I have always had an interest in fashion and beauty and now that I am well enough I am looking into a career as a beauty technician.”

“Celebrating Father’s Day this year will be extra special for me and my dad.  It’s hard to find the words to express my gratitude to him for giving me my life back but I know he understands how grateful I am.”

“Donating a kidney to me was the best gift I could ever have hoped for. I love him with all my heart and my mother also. They have always put my needs before theirs,” Ali gushed.

“Life is good for me now and I intend to make the most of the chances that have been given to me. I hope that by sharing my story that people will understand how important organ donation is.”

Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to Share their Wishes with their family and keep the reminders of their decision available by carrying the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence or having the ‘digital organ donor card’ App on their smartphone. Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the IKA website or phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.