William highlights the importance of organ donation

William Mills from Mallow who had a combined kidney and pancreas transplant at St. Vincent’s University Hospital last year, highlighting the importance of organ donation. Photo by Andres Poveda.

The importance of organ donation was highlighted recently by Mallow man William Mills who had a combined liver and pancreas transplant last year. William was a speaker at the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week which was held in Dublin. The following is the text of William’s speech; “Hello everyone. My name is William Mills, I’m 42 yearsa old from Mallow in Co. Cork. It is a privilege to be here today and enjoying good health thanks to my donor.
I underwent a combined kidney and pancreas transplant in early 2022 at St. Vincent’s University Hospital. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1996 when I was just 15 years old. I had to inject myself four times a day for nearly two decades. This diabetes forced me to grow up very quickly, become independent, and made me realise I had to take care of myself.
I was only 20 years old when I got a mortgage. Until the global pandemic I had worked all my life since 1999, mostly in management roles, in DVD and game stores including being self-employed for three years.
In later years as my health declined, I took on less demanding roles. I switched to working locally in retail. When my kidney function had reduced to 25% I was working on the checkouts in a busy Supervalu store in my local town, Mallow.  I really enjoyed the interactions with close to a thousand people at the checkouts every day. However, when Covid arrived, because of my vulnerability in the high-risk group for Covid-19 infection, my employers agreed for me to take extended leave.
In 2013, I changed from taking insulin injections to an insulin pump for my diabetes. I found it difficult to get to grips with this new device and keeping my insulin levels regulated. However, in 2017 the insulin pump was replaced with another device, a sensor, and I found this to be an excellent aid in managing my sugar levels. I felt more empowered and in control of my diabetes which in turn gave me more confidence to try to lead a normal life. I will be forever grateful to my endocrinologist Dr. Eoin O’Sullivan at the Bons Hospital in Cork and to diabetic nurses Vera and Saoirse who were outstanding in their care of me. They literally saved my life on a number of occasions!
However, just as I was getting my diabetes insulin levels under control, my kidneys began to fail, a common progression for people with diabetes. By 2017 my health took a nosedive and I ended up in hospital for 4 months. My kidney function had reduced to 45% but, under the excellent care of Nephrologist Prof. Liam Plant at CUH, I made a good recovery and my condition stabilised. By Springtime in 2021 my kidney function had reduced to 10% and I was about to commence dialysis treatment. Around the same time, I was put on the transplant waiting list. Fortunately, I was only on the waiting list for a short while when I received a call, out of the blue, early in the 2022 telling me to come to St Vincent’s Hospital for my combined kidney and pancreas transplant.
I was discharged from hospital after 13 days but not before encountering a setback on day five post-transplant which required a small operation to resolve a bleed in the valve to the newly-transplanted kidney.
I encountered a few other health setbacks in the months that followed and my post-op recovery was slow. There were a few complications but I wasn’t overly concerned. The medical staff had prepared me for this in advance of the operation and reassured me that this was not unusual.
I’m fully recovered now and feel so much better than ever before.  I can now look ahead to healthy future, free from diabetes and kidney failure. I have left behind all the social, lifestyle and dietary restrictions that come with those conditions which deny you a decent quality of life.
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to my donor’s family who are in my thoughts every day.
Along with the team at the Bons in Cork who I have previously mentioned, I would also like to acknowledge and thank the team at CUH, including Prof. Liam Plant and nurse Phil O’Driscoll, as well as the kidney team in Beaumont Hospital including my surgeon Gordon Smyth. The nursing, medical, surgical staff at Vincent’s Hospital were truly amazing and, in particular, transplant co-ordinators Suzie and Caroline who were a constant support. Dr. Tom Gallagher was there for me day and night if I needed him, and this gave me great reassurance and put me at ease.
My family has always been hugely supportive.  I can spend more quality time with them and my friends. I can now enjoy a normal life which is something I thought I would never get back again.
Supervalu has been an extremely supportive employer.   I was delighted to return to work with the retail group last November. Being able to work, meet people, and to properly function and contribute to society, is really important to me.
I owe it to my donor who gave me this second chance at life, to live the best life I can.”
Dr. Catherine Motherway, Clinical Lead, Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland, HSE also spoke at the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week, and said, “Organ Donation saves and transforms the lives of Ireland’s transplant recipients. The Gift of Life given by our donors, both living, and deceased is celebrated and cherished publicly every year during Organ Donation Awareness Week. This year will mark 60 years of Organ Donation and Transplantation in Ireland. Over the intervening years, advances in transplant medicine and surgery have allowed us to offer hope to more patients suffering from failure of a vital organ. At this time, we take a moment to reflect on how this would not be possible without the selfless generosity of our organ donors and their families. We remember our deceased donor families who, in the midst of grief and in the face of the sudden loss of a loved one, find it in their hearts to think of others in need. Our living donors give of themselves freely to help a loved one. This week I would encourage everyone to let their families know their wishes. Have that conversation, please. For bereaved families, when the wishes of the donor are known, it is an act of love to respect and honour that wish. It can bring comfort in a very dark and difficult time. For those of us who have the honour of caring for our donors and their families and who work to care for our transplant community we thank and honour all our donors.”
The Irish Pharmacy Union is supporting the campaign and several pharmacy chains are also helping to spread the message about the importance of organ donation by displaying the campaign poster and carrying stocks of organ donor cards. An Post is supporting this year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign with 350 of its larger and busiest outlets displaying stocks of organ donor cards and also displaying the campaign poster on its digital screens in 295 of its top post offices.
The public is being asked to mark Organ Donor Awareness Week by getting together to discuss organ donation with their loved ones, and letting them know their wishes about organ donation. The organ donor card is the perfect icebreaker to start this conversation. Whether it’s organising a get together with family and friends, setting up a information stand in your school, college, or place of work, it all makes a difference. You can request Organ Donor Cards via the IKA’s website www.ika.ie/donorweek
The Irish Kidney Association also provides their ‘Digital Organ Donor Card’ free to download from the App Store and the Google Playstore.