Coalisland ‘hero’ gives his cousin her ‘life back’ with the gift of a kidney

Raymond Hughes with his cousin Briege Dorman, whom he donated a kidney to on Tuesday

Raymond Hughes with his cousin Briege Dorman, whom he donated a kidney to on Tuesday

What are the chances that after six years of dialysis while waiting on a new kidney, your heroic cousin gives you one of his on Organ Donation Week?

This inspirational scenario just happens to be reality for Coalisland woman Briege Dorman, who lost one of her kidneys to cancer just before the other stopped working several years ago.

Raymond and Briege in hospital with Briege's supportive husband and daughter

Raymond and Briege in hospital with Briege's supportive husband and daughter

Now she says she’s owes everything to her “hero” - Raymond Hughes - also from Coalisland, who offered up one of his healthy kidneys after years of seeing his cousin in pain, and missing out on life because both hers had failed.

But, embarrassed at all the attention since his selfless act, Raymond would argue the real hero of this story is Briege, a grandmother and mother of four, who has not only had to deal with her own illness, but also help her son battle cancer three times.

And the timing, he said, was a complete accident.

Speaking to the Times today (Thursday, Sept 8) from Belfast City Hospital, 52-year-old Raymond shrugged off his generous and altruistic donation, saying: “Well, you know. I’m a single man and she’s such a lovely woman - all through the years, we’ve been friends.”

Briege and Raymond at his father's 80th two years ago

Briege and Raymond at his father's 80th two years ago

It seems Briege’s plight was never far from his mind, as he went on to describe how the 57-year-old was unable to take part in family life at times because of her reliance on dialysis.

“There’s a couple of things that made me think about it,” he went on to say.

“Once, I saw her at a family funeral and she couldn’t make it to the grave side - and it was breaking her heart.

“She had been let down so many times, and I had offered before and she maybe thought it was one of those ‘I’ll give you a kidney’ and that’s the last you hear.

“So I followed it through and got the tests and stuff. It was very tough scrutiny, and I got the MOT as well, so I got something out of it.

“She has been marvellous,” he continued. “She’s been let down all these years... She’s the hero.

“I’m going to be stiff and sore for a while, but she’s always happy no matter how much pain she’s in.”

But Briege has praised Raymond with helping her to get her life back after spending almost six months out of the last six years “tied to a bed on dialysis”.

“It’s a miracle,” she said. “He’s a hero for me and he’s given me back my life.

“My life was completely banjaxed,” Briege explained. “Now I’ll be back to normal like anybody else. I’ll be in here for nine to 15 days then it’s just one day at a time.”

The impressive pair were admitted to Belfast City Hospital for the procedure on Tuesday, when Raymond said his kidney was removed first, and Briege kept in isolation until it was transplanted into her later on the same day.

“It was only 48 hours ago, so we’re on a lot of painkillers,” he added.

“Briege has been waiting on a kidney and had been on dialysis for six years, travelling up and down the road to Newry three times a week.”

Even though they had both faced the disappointment of previous cancellations, this time was different.

“It was perfect,” Raymond said. “The doctors were delighted.”

Now the duo hope their story will help inspire others to think about organ donation.

There are currently 6,500 people on the transplant list, while three on average die every day while waiting on a donor organ.

Call 0300 123 23 23 for details on how to register.