A YOUNG MAN who suffered liver failure said writing a thank-you letter to the family of the person who died and donated their liver was the hardest thing he has ever had to do.
Raf Peeters, 28, who is originally from Belgium and now living in Annacotty, spoke out this week to highlight organ donor awareness week and to urge people to carry a donor card to potentially save someone’s life.
Luckily he said he waited for just three months for a liver to become available, and says his life has now changed completely thanks to someone’s generosity and foresightedness.
He had been sick for more than 10 years and doctors struggled to identity his condition, while he also was receiving chemotherapy from non-hodgkins lymphoma. “You get used to it,” he said of his condition. “It’s normal when you grow up with it. It was as if my liver was always fighting against my body and now that seems to be solved.”
“I was never told how long I’d last without a transplant, but people don’t realise just how important a liver is. It has over 500 different functions, and liver failure is not just related to alcohol. You have to be quite healthy if you want to donate a liver.”
He explained how he put on 15kgs in weight in August 2010 due to liver failure, but said his hopes of getting a new liver “never went up until I was on the operating table.”
While a lengthy scar down his torso is still visible, it is the only reminder of his health troubles.
“I have a different lease of life and a different attitude now - I’m a lot more proactive. I feel if you want something done, do it today, why wait until tomorrow? I started doing sports since the operation and want to do a triathlon this year for the first time.”
Now that his health has improved, the mechanical engineering graduate who works with Cook Medical said he plans to travel more.
“The give you the option of writing a letter, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. You want to thank someone while also being compassionate as they’ve lost someone. 80% of donations come from someone on a life-support machine. I’m very grateful to that person.”
“In other countries in the EU you opt-out of carrying the card, rather than opting in here, which makes most sense. The decision is up to everyone. I carry a card and I would encourage others to do the same.”
There was a record number of organ donations last year as deceased donors increased by 60 per cent on 2010, the Irish Kidney Association said. The association has called for an organ donor registry to be introduced to further increase organ donation levels as organ donor awareness week concludes on April 7.
There were 93 deceased organ donors last year, which allowed 248 organ transplants to be carried out, and contrary to popular perception most do not come from fatal road collisions. The association called on the Minister for Health to give more resources to organ donation and transplantation, arguing that transplantation is far less costly than dialysis.
Almost 2,800 people in Ireland are enjoying extended life as a result of receiving organ transplants but more than 650 people are awaiting transplants. Organ donor cards can be obtained from the Irish Kidney Association on 1890 543639, by texting donor to 50050.