Larne woman backs organ donation opt-out scheme

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A LARNE woman who underwent a life-saving kidney transplant has spoken out in support of the introduction of a controversial organ donation opt-out system.

Mandy Burke, who has suffered from diabetes since the age of 16, was diagnosed with kidney disease about five years ago and was forced to endure symptoms including constant nausea, weakness, terrible itching, loss of appetite, and severe weight loss.

But last September, Mandy’s son Robert took the brave decision to donate one of his own organs and give his mother a second chance at life.

Now, more than a year later, the mother-of-two is well on the road to recovery and told the Times that the operation has given her a new lease of life.

“I feel better now than I have in over five years, and I owe it all to the kindness and selflessness of my son.

“Robert will always be my hero. He has given me a better quality of life and a chance to live longer.”

And Mandy, who runs Ladybird Daycare Nursery at LEDCOM industrial estate, has now given her backing to a proposed new organ donation system, which would mean people would have to opt out if they did not wish to donate their organs when they die.

The current system means organs can only be donated if a person has indicated their desire to be a donor. The Welsh Assembly is considering adopting the new system, which would make it the first part of the UK to so.

While Mandy believes most people are in favour of organ donation in principle, she feels too few people are signing up to the Organ Donation Register.

“When it comes to actually signing up, a lot of people see it as a big step and won’t go through with it, even if they agree with the idea of organ donation,” she told the Times.

“By having an opt-out system, it would mean the decision would be taken out of peoples’ hands and they would not have to worry about it.

“For anyone who is still undecided about whether or not the opt-out system is a good idea, I would ask them to think about those people who are totally reliant on dialysis, especially at this time of year. While other people are sitting down to enjoy their Christmas dinners and having a few drinks with friends, those on dialysis are limited in what they can do and are constantly having to closely monitor what they put into their bodies.

“They constantly feel exhausted and rarely if ever get a chance to let their let their hair down; even at Christmas. Now imagine that was someone close to you and ask yourself what you would do to help them?”

In the 15 months since her operation, Mandy’s overall health has improved dramatically and has been able to return to work on a part-time basis.

“When I was waiting on a transplant, there were lots of small things that I missed not being able to do, such as eat cheese and drink as much fluids as I wanted,” Mandy added.

“There are still limitations on what I can do, such as not being able to go swimming or be around crowds of people, but Robert’s amazing gift has given me a second chance at life.

“I have been on holiday to Majorca twice with my family since the operation. But the best thing about regaining my health is being able to enjoy spending time with my twin grandchildren, Scarlett and Sebastian,” Mandy said.

Meanwhile, Robert has fully recovered from the operation and, despite a few scars, insists he is not any worse off now than he was before the procedure.

“His remaining kidney has bulked up and is now doing the job of two kidneys. He had to take three months off work after the operation, but is now working two jobs and is back training at the gym. I am so proud him and will be eternally grateful for what he did for me,” Mandy concluded.