A former nurse has decided to donate one of her kidneys to anyone who needs it after being moved by the experiences of those living on dialysis.
Catherine McCarley, from Ballyclare, Co Antrim attended her first pre-operative assessment in Belfast City Hospital on Tuesday as, just down the corridor, Stormont ministers were announcing plans to introduce a new organ donation system in the region.
Her altruism in volunteering for a live transplantation was highlighted by the politicians as they noted that Northern Ireland boasted the second highest rate of live organ donations per head of population in the world.
Ms McCarley said she was not aware that a person could donate to someone they did not know until she watched a recent TV programme.
“Last year I watched a documentary on TV and it was about living with kidney disease and it highlighted for me that you can be a living donor to somebody you don’t know, I always was under the impression that you had to be related in some way,” she said.
She explained that her work as a nurse had involved working with people with kidney failure and their stories had also inspired her to act.
“When I die I hope my organs and tissue samples will be donated but then I discovered through a lot more information that a live kidney from a live donor would have a better chance of success and last longer, so I thought, I don’t know what I am going to die from, and whatever that may be I may not be suitable, my organs may not be suitable after death, so I thought well I can do it now,” she said.
“I can do it now, so why not?”
Ms McCarley, who met with former GAA star and organ donor campaigner Joe Brolly, and Stormont ministers Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and Edwin Poots as they toured her ward, said she was fully behind the Northern Ireland Executive’s proposal to introduce a presumed consent model when it comes to donation after death.
“I think it’s a brilliant system and I would be totally in favour of that,” she said.
“A lot of people like the idea (of donating) but they never get around to registering on the donor register, they never get round to telling their relatives ‘this is what I want’.”
In terms of live donations, Mr Poots said there were more than 50 in Northern Ireland in 2011/12 and already had been a further 46 since last April.
“When it comes to organ transplantation in Northern Ireland in terms of live transplantation we are currently second best in the world,” he said.
“We’d like to be best in the world.”