Brothers front donor awareness campaign

May 24, 2011

By Brónagh Murphy

A young transplantee from south Armagh, who has been selected to front a live organ donor awareness campaign as part of this year’s Transplant Games, says it is “a great honour” to have been chosen for the role.

Fifteen-year-old Miceal Mullen, along with his brother Edward, from Newtown Road, Killean will front the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children’s (RVHSC) campaign to promote the national donor and card carrying programme.

The programme – aimed at encouraging people to consider becoming live organ donors – is running ahead of this year’s British Transplant Games and will officially launch at Stormont tomorrow (Tuesday).  The Games are being held in Belfast in August.

Miceal underwent a kidney transplant in November, receiving the organ from his elder brother, Edward.  The pair are the first brother-to-brother transplant to have taken place in the Children’s Hospital.

In Miceal’s case, his parents Eddie and Marian, along with Edward, were all found to be a suitable match for donation, however medics agreed that Edward’s kidney would offer the best chance for success.  Their situation, Marian says, is unusual in that it is much more common for parents, rather than a sibling, to donate to a child.

Reflecting on the time of the transplant operation, Marian says she was “full of apprehension” watching both her sons undergo surgery but says the last six months have seen a complete change in Miceal’s health, which became evident almost immediately after the operation.

Having suffered renal problems since birth, Miceal’s quality of life has been completely transformed since the surgery and he says he is very grateful to Edward (25) for “changing his life”.

Miceal Mullen has suffered from renal problems since birth and has had numerous operations in the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children (RVHSC).  However, during last year, his health deteriorated significantly to the point where he had less than 10 per cent function and was facing the real possibility of having daily dialysis.

Describing the decline in his health, his mother Marian explained: “He was suffering from extreme fatigue and had to follow a very restricted diet which impacted on his whole life.  We knew we were facing the possibility of Miceal going on dialysis or having a transplant.

“I was very apprehensive when Edward insisted he would be the donor as I wasn’t sure how it would affect his life but it has not physically impacted on his quality of life at all.  He is back to his work as a builder and is playing football with his club team, St. Michael’s, Killean.”

Marion says Miceal is a very determined and out-going person who faced his health problems with a positive attitude and aside from a brief spell in hospital recently, he has made wonderful progress in the last six months.

Miceal is very well-known in traditional music circles in the south Armagh and wider area.  A member of the Ring of Gullion branch of Comhaltas and the Armagh Pipers, he is an accomplished banjo, flute and whistle player.

In 2009 he produced a CD entitled ‘The Craic in the Wall’ in aid of the RVHSC, in gratitude for the excellent care he received there over the years.

It is his music and his friends, both from school and in music circles, that Miceal has missed most during his time in hospital and his lengthy recovery.  However, he is pleased to report that he is slowly getting back on the music scene, having  taken part in a number of sessions and is also busy preparing for next month’s Armagh County Fleadh.

Miceal says his transplant has given him a whole new lease of life and he is very grateful to his family, friends and the medical team, but most especially his brother Edward.

“Beforehand I was tired and had no energy.  Now I am able to go out on the bike for a few hours and maybe go for a walk and I don’t have to be so careful with what I eat.  And I am delighted to be getting back to playing music

“We would like to thank the transplant teams in both the Children’s and the City Hospitals,” he added.

But his biggest  plaudit is reserved for his elder brother: “I want to include a big thank you to Edward for changing my life.”

The Mullen family is keen to point out the importance of carrying organ donor cards and also urges the public to consider becoming live organ donors by joining the National Register.

Marian acknowledges that they are not the only local family to have dealt with organ transplant and the accompanying health factors, with this year being one of the busiest for transplants, particularly in the Children’s Hospital.  It is therefore an even greater achievement that Miceal and Edward have been chosen by the hospital to front their campaign.

Expressing his delight at being chosen, Miceal said: “I am very honoured to be picked because so many transplants have happened in the last couple of years so to be picked is a real honour.”