Westmeath Garda donates kidney to ailing fiancée

(Above) Briona Reynolds with her boyfriend Shane Hunter.

It was a case of third time lucky when a 29 year-old Westmeath Garda came to the rescue to give the ultimate pre-wedding gift to his ailing fiancée when he donated a kidney to her on Monday June 22.

The couple are sharing their good news to offer hope to the hundreds of other families with loved ones in organ failure on transplant waiting lists as the kidney transplant programme has resumed at Beaumont Hospital following its suspension in March due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Five years ago when beautiful Briona Reynolds (now age 28) discovered she had kidney disease she could never have known that her boyfriend, Shane Hunter, from Athlone, whom she met in 2009 after her sister’s introduction would ultimately give her the gift of life. Briona no longer has to undergo three times weekly haemodialysis treatment at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore. The couple can now look forward to a bright future together as they are now recovering following their successful living donor transplant operations at the home they share in Briona’s native Tubber in Offaly. They are now turning their attention to planning for their wedding in July 2021 at the nearby Mount Druid and Shane will return to working at Tullamore Garda Station soon.

Beaumont Hospital had already suspended transplant operations before the country went into lock down on March 27, including Briona and Shane’s operations, scheduled to take place on March 23. This would be their second disappointment as a previous date for transplant, February 3, had also been cancelled due to safety concerns as a result of Shane’s blood results showing irregularities at the time.

By February, Briona’s kidney function had almost fully declined and she then had no option but to commence haemodialysis treatment in order to keep her alive. Briona’s mother Gina Reynolds was also found to be a suitable living kidney donor match but Shane was determined that he should be the one to proceed.

Just a week before the transplant operation took place, Briona, completed her thesis for a master’s in education. Fulfilling her dream to become a secondary school art teacher is now edging closer.

Speaking from his home, eleven days post surgery, kidney donor Shane commented: "For the last number of years I've seen Briona struggle with the complications of having kidney failure and so when I was given the opportunity to get tested for kidney donation I was eager to help but also nervous that I might not be a match. Thankfully, here we are less than two weeks on from transplant and both of us are doing great and recovering well. The successful transplant allows us to plan ahead and focus on what's coming, like our wedding next year. Throughout the whole process leading up to and at the time of our surgeries including the disappointment around our two previous postponed surgeries we always felt safe under the care of Beaumont Hospital. The confidence and support experienced was incredible and we were very lucky to have had an excellent team looking after us. Right now, we're just looking forward to getting back to a stage where we can go back to work, go on holidays and just get back to normal living." Shane quipped, "Now my concern is what to get Briona for her birthday, it's hard to top a kidney!"

Briona explained: "Since being diagnosed five years ago we watched as my kidney function decreased knowing there was nothing we could do other than trying to delay the inevitable through medication and lifestyle and dietary changes. But as my kidney function continued to decline to a point where my treatment options were reduced to commencing hospital dialysis treatment or the hope of getting a kidney transplant. I was so grateful when both Shane and my mam went forward to be tested to be living donors knowing that not everyone gets this opportunity and many are reliant on the uncertainty of a deceased donor kidney becoming available. Both our families were hopeful the living donor process would work out but at the same time concerned for Shane and my mam. The past ten months have probably been the most challenging, waiting for test results, watching my health decrease further and trying to complete my thesis while on dialysis. But after all the stress and disappointment when Shane and I finally checked into Beaumont Hospital the evening before our operations, it all felt worth it and that everything was going to work out. I honestly don't think it has fully sunk in yet that Shane has donated his kidney to me and I'll never know how to fully thank him but I am so grateful that we can finally move ahead with our lives. I'd like to thank Shane's parents, Norman and Sharon Hunter, who now live in Dysart, Co Roscommon and my mam and dad, Gina and Frank Reynolds for their loving support throughout my health journey."

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

The public can also support the work of the Irish Kidney Association and can Freetext KIDNEY to 50300 to donate €4. Texts cost €4, Irish Kidney Association will receive a minimum of €3.60. Service Provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 076 6805278. They can also donate through the Irish Kidney Association’s website https://ika.ie/make-a-contribution/