'Words not enough to thank Mam for kidney donation'

Neil Coleman's life was in grave danger when his one remaining kidney failed. His mother Marion didn't think twice about stepping forwards as a donor
'Words not enough to thank Mam for kidney donation'

Neil Coleman and his kidney donor mother Marion Coleman from Charleville, Cork. Pictures: Jimmy Coleman 

A Cork man who whose mother donated a kidney to him said words cannot express how grateful he is to her on Mother’s Day as his health continues to improve.

Neil Coleman, from Charleville, was already down to one kidney by the age of 25 following a childhood illness. So when, in the hours after his brother’s wedding, he suddenly developed “massive black bags” under his eyes, he quickly realised something could be wrong with his remaining kidney.

His fears were confirmed at Cork University Hospital, where he was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2018.

His mother Marion was the first to step forward as a potential donor.

“To attempt to express my gratitude through words would be a disservice to the immeasurable gift my mam has given,” he said.

“I’m alive today due to her selfless donation and words will always fall short of how that really makes me feel. While my gratitude is and always will be ever-present, I’ll still take every opportunity I have to express it that much more to her.” 

 Marion was 62 when she made the successful donation to her youngest son in September 2021.

“I don’t think I know anyone who wouldn’t do this for their child,” she said.

“Once I heard that Neil would need a transplant, there was no question, ever, that I would not be the one to put myself forward. 

"I was delighted when it was confirmed that I was a kidney match.” 

In separate rooms after the successful transplant at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, it was two days before they could hug.

“It’s not so much the embrace that has stuck with me but rather chatting to my mother while I was still bedridden and the immense feeling of relief that came with that experience - knowing that she was all right and everything went fine with both of our operations,” he said.

By the time of the operation, Neil had lost 24kg, weighing just 56kg. However, the new kidney made an immediate difference.

“Waking up for the first time after the operation was as though I had come out of a horrible nightmare and all of a sudden every last worry had melted away,” he said.

“My thoughts were clear and deliberate, I could feel an alertness I had never realised I was missing in the first place. I felt like I was me again.” 

His father Jimmy had to watch from the outside, with covid restrictions meaning no visitors.

Marion said: “No one could have guessed how hard it would be emotionally on my husband as he worried about both of us undergoing operations on the same day” 

They were supported by the Irish Kidney Association who provided hotel accommodation nearby.

The delighted pair were home in Charleville two weeks later.

“My father and I had to remind mam to take it easy for a while,” he said.

“Dad looked after us, as did Sherlyn, my sister-in-law, who had prepared meals for us for a few weeks. 

"By week three, Mam felt she was back to normal and full of energy caring for me to ensure I made a full recovery.” 

Marion said: “I was raring to go within a few weeks although I did my best to behave and follow medical orders to take it easy for six weeks.” Mr Coleman struggled with persistent infections for six months, but said this did not take away his relief.

“So, this Sunday will not only be a treat for my mam. It will be the first Mother’s Day in quite a few years where I feel I am fully myself and not a grumpy son, and I have her to thank for that,” he said.

Marion and Neil are sharing their story to highlight the importance of organ donation.

Support organ donation by telling family members, carrying a donor card or including Code 115 on drivers’ licences. Download the ‘digital organ donor card’ App on smartphones.

Request an organ donor card from the Irish Kidney Association: www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or phone 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.

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