Transplant recipient delighted for Spirit Award winners

May 30, 2016

A Crossmaglen man who received a life-changing kidney transplant last October says he is delighted that the medical team he credits with making him feel “reborn” have become worthy winners of the Spirit of Health Award at Friday night’s Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards.

The annual gala-awards ceremony has become a key event in Northern Ireland’s events calendar, honouring the real heroes of Northern Ireland and giving recognition to all those whose good deeds and inspirational stories have previously gone mostly unnoticed.

Fifty-one year old Aidan Murtagh personally nominated the Nephrology Unit of Belfast City Hospital for the special accolade in recognition of their outstanding work in the treatment of chronic kidney disease.    Indeed the team hit the national headlines last year when it emerged they 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 was one of those five transplant patients, and he counts himself incredibly lucky to have become an organ recipient after beginning his daily dialysis treatment just 12 days beforehand. 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 effect of high levels of toxins in his body, have all disappeared.

Speaking to The Examiner as he returned from a great night mingling with Northern Ireland’s unsung heroes and a host of celebrities at the glittering awards ceremony in the Culloden Estate & Spa resort in Holywood, Aidan said he felt the Belfast City Hospital Nephrology team “more than deserved” the recognition and he took the opportunity to stress the importance of organ donation.

Staff from the Belfast City Hospital Nephrology Unit celebrate their Spirit of Health Award at Friday's Spirit of NI Awards ceremony in the Culloden Estate and Spa. The team were nominated by Crossmaglen man Aidan Murtagh who credits the team with giving him a new lease of life after he received a kidney transplant last October.

“I am delighted my nomination was successful and the team got the recognition they deserved,” he said.

“This was a way of expressing my gratitude to them for giving me a new lease of life and to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. I will be eternally thankful to the family who made the decision to donate their loved one’s organs.  “Their decision opened up a whole new life for me and underlines the huge importance of organ donation. I am living proof of just how life-changing organ donation is and I would encourage everyone to sit down with their loved ones and discuss committing to be an organ donor.”

Meanwhile, Newry based charity, the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust (KBRT) was also honoured on the night, picking up the Overcoming Adversity Award in recognition of their tireless work in repatriating the remains of loved ones who have died abroad. Newry couple Collie and Eithne Bell turned their own personal tragedy into a renowned repatriation charity which has helped bring home the remains of over 170 Irish people to their families.

The trust was set up in the days after the hit-and-run death of the Bell’s 26 year old Kevin,  in New York three years ago. As Kevin’s friends and supporters in Newry and abroad rallied round to raise funds to repatriate his body,  the fund grew to £150,000 and, instead of asking for the fundraising to stop, the couple realised that other families would go through the same heartbreak and would need help to get a loved one home after a tragedy overseas. So the KBRT was borne and has continued to be a vital lifeline to people in times of great distress.  Collie Bell told The Examiner the KBRT team were “ flattered, humbled and honoured to be on the same stage as truly wonderful and inspirational people” and added,

“We are really grateful for the raising of the KBRT profile and so appreciate the continuous support we receive on a daily basis.”