Transplant recipient of record surgery “reborn”

October 5, 2015

A Crossmaglen man who received a kidney transplant last month says he feels “reborn” after the operation, one of five carried out on the same day in Belfast City Hospital.

Aidan Murtagh (51) hit the national headlines when it emerged the hospital had equalled the UK record in carrying out five kidney transplants in the one day, falling just one short of the world record of six in 24 hours, held by a hospital in Texas, USA.

Aidan, a publican in his home town, says he is still in shock at how quickly events leading to the operation unfolded and feels incredibly lucky to have been one of the chosen recipients.

Born with just one kidney, his health had deteriorated in recent years to the point where his remaining kidney was operating at just 5 per cent.  Having been placed on the transplant list two years ago, tests earlier this year determined that he would require dialysis, though incredibly he had begun the four-times daily treatment just 12 days ahead of receiving the call.

The scenario unfolded on Saturday 12th September when Aidan received a call from Belfast City Hospital informing him that a donor organ had become available.  This call, he says, took him completely by surprise as he believed he would remain on the transplant list for years to come.

Reacting to the news, he said: “I had been in hospital the week before with a suspected heart problem and I thought they were ringing to tell me I’d be taken off the transplant list for a while.  I couldn’t believe it when they asked could I travel to the hospital immediately, that I had been chosen for a kidney transplant.”

With little time to dwell on what lay ahead, Aidan said he was “running on adrenalin” but remained “very calm”.

For the following 24 hours, he underwent a barrage of tests to ensure suitability for the surgery and around noon the following day the operation went ahead.

Although medical staff did not reveal to the organ recipients that a total of five consecutive transplant operations were taking place, Aidan says he was aware that something significant was going on.

It later emerged that doctors had intentionally withheld the information from their patients to prevent them becoming anxious at the momentous task that lay ahead.

Since the transplant, Aidan’s recovery has been remarkable and he was discharged from hospital after just five days, one of the quickest recovery times ever recorded following such surgery.

He says his life has changed dramatically and the previous symptoms of complete exhaustion and the overall affect of high levels of toxins in his body, have all disappeared.

Now attending follow up clinics twice-weekly, Aidan regularly meets up with his fellow recipients – dubbed “The Famous Five” by hospital staff – and says they have formed a strong friendship.

He says the reaction he is still receiving since news coverage of the record-breaking event became public, has been immense.

“I’ve had so many messages from well wishers, it’s been great.  Though it was a bit strange going into the hospital the next day [after the public news conference] and a man coming running to me to shake my hand because he’d seen me on the news!” he added.

Conscious of the feelings of his organ donor’s bereaved family, Aidan says he will always be grateful for the decision they made that has opened up a whole new life for him.

All organ transplant recipients are guided by professional staff through potential future contact with donor families and Aidan says he definitely plans to make contact with them in the future.

“I’d like them to know where their loved one’s organ went and how my life has changed because of their decision.  I will be eternally grateful to them.”