Brothers share their transplant story
27th September 2022
With first-hand experience of an organ transplant, brothers Jonathan and Mark McGivern are encouraging people to have a chat with their family on giving the gift of life.
Mark, a physiotherapist in Craigavon Area Hospital, made the decision to donate his kidney to his brother Jonathan, a social worker for the Family Support Team in Newry who already had two failed kidney transplants and was now on dialysis.
Jonathan explained how he was diagnosed with a long standing health condition, chronic renal failure when he was just two weeks old. A condition involving a decrease in the kidneys’ ability to filter waste and fluid from the blood and meaning he needed to be on daily dialysis, restricting him from normal everyday life.
After two failed kidney transplants from non-living donors when he was just eight and 10 years old, it was Jonathan’s brother, Mark, 26 at the time who would give Jonathan, now 32 the biggest gift of all, his kidney.
In the summer of 2010 before speaking with Jonathan, Mark sought tests to find out if he would be a viable match as a living donor for his brother. Something which was never discussed prior, “as living-donors were only beginning to increase and Mark didn’t want to mention it to find out it wouldn’t be possible” said Jonathan.
Mark wished to pursue his gift of giving his brother his kidney. On 12th January 2011 the transplant took place. Just four months after the operation Jonathan was well enough to return to his work at that time in the Family Intervention Team in Newry with the support of his colleagues who helped make it a smooth transition. That summer Mark went on to marry his fiancée a Social Worker within the Southern Trust, with Jonathan by his side as best man whose wife is a Nurse also with the Southern Trust.
Since the transplant, Jonathan’s new kidney has been a huge success enabling him to live a very full and normal life now he no longer spends his evenings on dialysis. Equally Mark’s health has been very well with no ill effects from donating his kidney. It’s also given him a real sense of fulfilment knowing how he’s changed his brother’s life.
Both brothers have also now started families of their own. Mark continues to receive routine check-ups every 12 months and Jonathan every six months in Daisy Hill Hospital.
Jonathan said, “The staff at the Renal Unit in Daisy Hill Hospital are excellent and can’t be praised enough throughout my time prior to transplantation, while I was on dialysis and post-transplant. I am especially thankful to Dr John Harty and his entire team.”
In 2017 Jonathan became a Trustee of the Children’s Kidney Fund now helping children and their families with kidney disease to benefit in a variety of practical and emotional ways.
Only half of families agree to donation if they don’t know their loved one’s decision, but this rises to nine out of 10 if they know their loved one wanted to donate.
Each year in Northern Ireland around 10-15 people die while awaiting a transplant. There are around 144 people in NI on the waiting list. 90% of people in Northern Ireland support organ donation. But only 52% of people have signed the Organ Donor Register. Have a conversation with those close to you about your decision to give them the confidence to support your decision should the situation arise.
Please consider signing the Organ Donor Register by visiting www.organdonationni.info