Transplant Team Ireland

Keep up-to-date with me on This Limbo - a blog about dialysis & other curiosities

Sunday, August 15, 2010


This blog has presented a rare strain of writer's block for me.

When I was first asked to record my experiences of the Games, I struggled to find words to fill the white space and now when the time comes for a last post I have too much to say.

The week felt like a month in the best possible way. It was filled with nerves and shiny objects and happy moments too many to mention.

It has been surreal too. As an event it was a strange eye-opener. I am relatively new to sickness and this week immersed me in the transplant/dialysis scene in a way that I had avoided thus far.

The transitions of the last few years are hard to take at times. A leap - no, a plummet - from being healthy to being chronically ill, to now being categorised as some class of an athlete of all things!

This was a week to search frantically for some pause button and take stock. But of course there wasn't time for that. There was running to do.

The last contests in Santry yesterday brought the competition phase to a close but no sporting event is complete without a good dinner dance in a hotel suite with profiteroles for dessert.

The Gala Ball was fantastic. Some healthy humans I like to hang around with accompanied me and they were taken aback at the sight of a near empty bar by midnight and a dancefloor full of people that they had only ever regarded as patients.

I explained to them that we have all had enough bad nights to appreciate the good ones.

Today brought the expected sense of anticlimax and the recognition of the fact that the Games were the distraction through which I had personally sought shelter for the last few months.

But far outweighing that disappointment is the legacy this week has left in its wake. For that, I have no words.

PS This blog will now be going to blog heaven, but for those of you who need to fill time in a civil service job or on dialysis or in sleepless nights spent on PD you can keep an eye on my exciting life at
This Limbo - a blog about dialysis & other curiosities

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I've had worse days...

I awoke today with a lower body full of muscles that were not speaking to me and two medals by my bed.

Yesterday was a great one. I could try to be modest, but humility cannot be worn well by everyone. It certainly doesn't go well with gold ;)

My victory on the badminton court was a landmark in my personal battle with this kidney failure nonsense. A day of taking and holding control over it and laughing in its face.

The matches that lay before me at the start of the day were minor compared to some of the head-to-heads that were highlights for the spectators, hell for those involved, but I got through them and got my reward.

Contrary to the expectations of some glass-half-empty commentators, I did not succumb to Mayo-itis and fold on the big day - perhaps I have a future in motivational speaking, held up as an example to the GAA folk from the county of repeated All-Ireland failures!

To top off the gold, there was also success in the doubles and this was almost sweeter because it was shared with another Irish contestant and also by extension shared with her lovely family.

It's been a long time since I managed to stay up and awake for almost 18 hours, but yesterday something overcame the tiredness.

I suspect it was something like joy.


While it seemed that all the action was at the badminton courts yesterday, the cycling was also taking place and the Irish had much success there.

Today I met Tom Metcalfe who had the privilege of being presented with his medals at the end of the 5k and 20k races by his 92-year-old mother.

This week is as much about the families of all of us as it is about ourselves. They have been through the worrying, and time spent in a waiting room, fully conscious of passing minutes must surely be worse than being 'under', unaware of the move of the scalpel across your skin.

They may have to remain on the sideline in the last few days, just as they have sat by our beds in the past, but their being there has as always been enough. It has been plenty.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

And they're off...

I know this is my first Games and that I therefore have nothing to compare it to - and I know I may be a little biased by the fact it is on Irish soil - but the unfolding of the opening ceremony set the perfect tone for this special week.

For one thing, the sun was shining and that hasn't happened in at least a month of sundays in Dublin.

For another thing, there was a sense of celebration before the first medal had even been taken from its box and given a polish.

There will be some for whom crossing the finish line first is the goal this week. For many though, getting to the start line in Dublin on sunday night was an achievement in itself.


Day Two and on campus there was the air of something stirring and winners winning at a remove from the Games base - word of their successes were drifting along on a grand warm wind coming down from Coolock and from tree-lined home straights in events like the mini-marathon.

The stories too have started to bob to the surface. The amazing ties that link some of the people in Dublin this week - literal blood brothers and sisters. The medical journeys that some have taken to the brink of death and back to their new life.

Thankfully, the media is taking some notice.


Tomorrow, the activity will be mostly at DCU where those of us who like to think we can play badminton will take over the sports hall.

This will be my first event. I'm not sure if I'm nervous or excited or if that feeling in my tummy may just be related to the old organ failure.

It'll be an early start. If anyone sees me slumped against a tree on the way up the avenue, just give me a push and a cup of coffee.

Best of luck everyone!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ten reasons...

The main reasons why the Games have been a tonic so far and why I am looking forward to Dublin's hosting of this life-affirming event:

1. It will bring me back to DCU, where I spent the happiest years of my strange existence so far.

2. There is the promise of absolute, heedless, ridiculous fun, regardless of our performances on the course, court or track.

3. I have noticed in these weeks as we await the start of the Games that the element of distraction is growing. Less time spent on moaning about dialysis, more time being constructive or excited about this coming week of participation. This is undoubtedly a good thing.

4. I look forward to days of healthy competition and celebration - for those who come first and those who may be chasing the pack but who are nonetheless defying odds and clocking up a victory by their very presence.

5. I look forward too to nights of team meetings and chatting with those from other countries who might not speak our language but who will understand where we have been and how we have been.

6. The Hungarians!

7. I have a mind that at some point we may be able to form some kind of delegation to speak to representatives from the organisers of the World Games next year and suggest other possible events, ie Dodgeball

8. A chance also perhaps to meet some volunteers and ask why our Games mean something to them - I know of some who are the family of organ donors who see this event as part of their ongoing, selfless contribution to our new lives.

9. Feeling like I am doing something in the most positive way possible to promote the carrying of a donor card and to help transform the debate in the public domain about organ donation from a murmur into an irrepresible, ongoing conversation

10. Coming away from it all on August 15 with memories to cherish and friends for life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A series of strange coincidences

Life was flowing along nicely for me in the summer of 2001. Exams were over, my second year as a student at DCU was complete and I had secured my first real job as a reporter with the Irish Sun. I was 19 years old.

Tabloid journalism was not for me, but it was an education in itself. Not just about how to write for an attention-deficient society, but also about what the majority in that society wish to read. Sex and tragedy. That was all that mattered.

There were many sad incidents that summer. I remember attending the funeral of a mother killed in a boating accident and phoning the home of a toddler who had been killed in a farm accident to see if in their hour of grief his parents might want to make a comment to a journalist. They didn't. Thank God.

In the midst of all this there loomed another event that was deemed by my editor to be worthy of attention. A good editor knows as much about human behaviour as any psychologist and my then boss knew that out of great sadness there could come a story of heroics that would be devoured by his readers. People like to read some optimism in their newspaper occasionally, especially on a friday or a saturday.

The Transplant Games were being held in Japan that year and I was sent along to the ALSAA to meet some of the team, get quotes about how they were overcoming the great challenges in their lives and write what they call a feel-good story.

I have little memory of what I wrote about the team back then, though it is probably in a scrapbook somewhere at home. I do know I had never heard of the Transplant Games before that day and it seemed a rather novel idea - something however that didn't really concern me because I was healthy and they were sick.

In 11 days, I will return to DCU as part of Transplant Team Ireland.

Funny how things turn out.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Recipe for a successful sunday

Take seventy members of Team Ireland, add one of our own atheletic legends, dozens of donated sandwiches, one remarkably patient photographer, three score and ten matching team kits and a number of butterflies native to the tummy area...and what do you get?

Team Ireland on its last formal get-together prior to our hosting of the 6th European Transplant & Dialysis Games.

There was inspiration in abundance up at the ALSAA, supplied in the growing camaraderie that is uniting the old hands on the team and the new batch of hopefuls and nicely complimented by the words of Eamonn Coughlan.

Those cyncial about motivational speaking and those who see it as being a bit David Brent would do well to sit and listen to Coughlan for a quarter of an hour. He made it sound easy, but then the greats always do.

He was happy to take questions and happy too to subject himself to the mandatory team photos. The pose of looking as though you are about to take off from starting blocks on a track is not one I've personally practiced in the mirror before. Nor have I ever seen them do it on America's Next Top Model. I'm sure we'll all look wonderful nonetheless.

A final note, I must apologise to the 13-14 year old whose tracksuit I stole. These are only words for the sake of it however, I am not even remotely sorry. I'm short and you have the prospect of further growth ahead of you. So don't talk to me about what's fair!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Then the heavens opened

It's coming back to me.

Very slowly.

My love of running. It's kid's stuff, a nonsense really. To set off at pace down a stretch of road, flailing limbs, competing with nobody but in a race with something or someone nonetheless.

I associate running with the minutes after we were dropped off at school but before the master had arrived to open up. The ritual was the same every morning, a tight schedule of head-to-head contests to get the day started.

You went up against your own classmates and your own sex. Occasionally you challenged those who were older because a victory in this category granted you a new level of respect that may have been short-lived and overturned with a re-run the following day, but which was still significant.

Running in the teenage years became a torture, something that was required during PE, before volleyball matches, more for the sadistic pleasure of a teacher whose limited knowledge of the human anatomy extended to 10 laps and two types of stretches as a warm-up.

It was only in the twenties that there were glimmers again of running as a possible source of fun. Now in sickness it is so much more, a measure of how much my body can still manage even with its obvious weaknesses.

It's why I force myself to do it, even on days like today when the legs feel like they have been removed overnight, packed with weights and sewn back on and the heavens have opened outside.

I secretly prefer to run in a downpour. It feels more real when you're drenched within two minutes of stepping outside and you are rewarded for good, steady breathing with raindrops from Sellafield in your mouth and you jump over puddles for the entire jaunt until you're near home and then you just run through the water, knowing a hot shower is only a couple of minutes of soggy socks away.

When you run in the rain, you feel ten years old again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It hurts

I used to think sporting people who talked about their injuries were akin to parents who bored their childless friends with talk of babies. It seemed boastful, self-involved and really, really uninteresting.

But I now take those words and I eat them, having gained a new-found sympathy for this particular type of twinge. The hamstring in my left leg is strained or pulled or just sick of me trying to run him around the block, while the general area around my right hip is ripped apart with a piercing jolt every time I walk at any kind of speed.

So running and walking both result in pain, leaving me in a bit of a bind. I don't believe they have a category for athletes on crutches in the Games.

Before anyone gets into lecturing mode about the need to warm up and cool down, I am diligent when it comes to both (my stretches are legendary amongst those who have witnessed my pre-gazelle-like-motion preparations).

But obviously, I'm going wrong somewhere. I thought I had fairly mastered the art of walking at this stage, but as my family will testify, I did spend most of my childhood falling over so maybe it's an ongoing balance/mobility problem.

Whatever the reason, I need to fix it because I'm in danger of suffering frostbite from the ice packs that are now attached to my legs every evening.


Kudos to those people who continue to run even with years of this particular type of pain. They obviously do it for the love of the endorphines and not just for the hope of a medal and a lap of honour in front of a home crowd.

If any of those such sporty types are reading this, please feel free to suggest some remedies I could try.

And for the love of God, don't say Deep Heat.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

EPO magic

In the past few days (in addition, it has to be said to three bouts of training), I read a book on the history of the Tour de France.

It was for work purposes and while it was filled with amusing anedcotes and some unbelievable tales of spectacular cheating, I zoned in on the chapter that dealt with the coming of age of EPO.

Those of you who are on, or have been on dialysis know the saving graces of synthetic Erythropoietin with its addictive red-blood-cell boosting charms. One dose to the leg every few weeks and for a few glorious days, everything feels a little bit easier.

In sporting terms however, according to this book, the brilliance of EPO has the ability to "turn a donkey into a racehorse".

When my CKD reached Stage 5, I was granted some help in the form of NeoRecormon. Loved it. However, it loved me a little too much and ended up pushing my haemoglobin to levels which the doctors claimed could be damaging to my heart.

Now I'm on Arenesp and while in theory it is still a form of EPO, I no longer feel the same benefit. The buzz of NeoRecormon has been replaced by a half-baked whimper from 30mgs of this new stuff every three weeks.

I think the forthcoming Games is grounds for me to once again petition my doctors to put me back on the former. The whole donkey into racehorse argument is reason enough to revisit this old ground and the fear of coming last in every possible race is swaying me towards taking my chances with a dodgy ticker.

I know there are some who would say that I could have read a book on one of the most epic sporting challenges in the world and come away with a heightened sense of the potential of the human being rather than a whetted appetite for performance enhacing drugs...hmmmm....nah.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Motivation problems


I have developed a serious case of 'avoision' (it is a word apparently). Not sure how it happened, but it started slowly - a reluctance to throw on the runners and do the funky gazelle up the street - and has developed into a monster. A giant, lazy, morbidly obese monster who insists I do a lot more sitting and a lot less moving.

I believe this same monster is a regular visitor to households of all modern children, but at least he brings them presents like an x box.

It hasn't been an entirely inactive fortnight. There was a game of badminton with the brother and when I was holidays last weekend, there was a good long walk on the beach in conditions I can only liken to a hurricane, which must have earned some kudos for my lung capacity.

But generally, it's been avoision. I have locked the runners in the wardrobe lest the sight of them make me feel guilty and I have grasped for solid excuses for my lack of effort.

There's work to do, I'm tired, I think I may have hurt my cruciate ligament (wherever that is), if I go out now I'll miss Home & Away, it looks like it may rain...

If anyone has any cures for avoision, you may let me know...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The regime begins

It seemed obvious really, to start a training regime with this, the arrival of June.

In the peculiar order I like to apply to certain areas of life, starting projects at the rollover to a new month seems to hold a degree of promise and optimism - a sense of there being about 30 days ahead in which to stick to some sort of resolution or routine.

Coincidentally, I also pay my rent and a lot of bills on the same day, so exercise is about the only activity I can afford by close of business on the 1st.

But where and how to begin.

Three of the events I have signed up for in the Games involve running, so I impressed the kids outside by doing some very serious looking stretches and decided to set off and 'go for a run'.

It is, after all what any self-respecting, all-round, work-hard-play-hard rugrat of my generation is meant - nay, required - to do at the end of the working day.

I like to compare my movements to that of a gazelle, but in truth, halfway down the block I probably had more in common with an ancient dingo, injured in the wild, a creature that David Attenborough would in his narration of the scene lament as being a goner.

I distract myself from the sudden lack of oxygen in the atmosphere by working out where I could lay the blame for this lack of fitness. It's the anaemia. It's the 2 litres of dialysis fluid I'm carrying. It's the tube in my tummy that somehow impedes my legs and lungs, despite being nowhere near either.

Distractions don't work for long though. I think at one point I was manically singing along to the song on my ipod in an attempt to ensure I was still breathing, but even that didn't do it.

After setting a more realistic target of a bus stop at the top of the road rather than the entire block, I allowed myself to slow down to a walk once I reached the modest finish line.

Once upon a more stubborn time, pride may have pushed me to keep running, but for the sake of my vital organs that are still working, on this occasion, I conceded the battle lost and strolled home.

It wasn't gazelle, but it was a good attempt. Next time I'll do better and next time will be tomorrow.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

By way of Introduction...

Where this blog will go, I have no idea, but the general direction in which we are headed has as its climax the 6th European Transplant & Dialysis Games.

I have been asked to record my experiences as I prepare for the event in Dublin and all I can promise is that it will be a true testament to how practice does not always make perfect in one who was born to walk rather than run.

Seriously, I have numerous scars to prove this.

My selection as Chief Games Blogger (a title I have bestowed on myself) is down to the fact that I am a newbie in every sense of this present context. New to being sick (it was discovered my kidneys were failing just two years ago), relatively new to dialysis (almost a year on that of the peritoneal variety now) and new to the Games.

The clever clock on the website tells us there are just 68 days left until the Games begin. That seems a frightfully short amount of time for me to become a contender.

But then, that's what they said about my great hero in life. Rocky Balboa.

So let's do this.