Former GAA player among those facing transplant delays

John Egan urges public to become organ donors as pandemic delays surgeries

Former Westmeath footballerJohn Egan. Photograph: Gleb Photography

A former GAA player is urging the public to become organ donors as those waiting for transplants face more delays than ever before due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

John Egan, a former intercounty Westmeath footballer, is due to start dialysis in the coming weeks and is also in the process of being added to the kidney transplant list.

Egan, from Athlone, works as a senior IT recruitment consultant. More than 15 years ago, he was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, which causes long-term kidney damage and eventual kidney failure.

For the first few years after his diagnosis, Egan was able to manage the condition with steroids and medication.


However, by 2018, Egan’s kidney function had dropped to below 30 per cent.

At the age of 28, Egan decided to retire from playing GAA. He still works in the management side of the sport.

Egan is now in end-stage kidney failure with a kidney function of about 9 per cent.

“I was supposed to go through tests to officially get on the transplant list mid last year. Each one of them was put off by a few months,” he says.

“I was told at the beginning of last year I would be on the transplant list by October or November, but at this point in time I am still not officially on the list.”

However, last week, Egan was in Tallaght Hospital to begin the process of starting dialysis.

He will get surgery to implant a catheter into his stomach to allow him to start peritoneal dialysis which he can do at home.

He will also meet the surgeon and transplant team in Beaumont Hospital next week, to discuss being added to the transplant list.

Egan added that the delays are not the doctors’ fault, and that they are trying to protect everyone from Covid-19.

Organ donor card

The former GAA star was also due to marry his fiancée, Traci, in December of last year. Covid-19 has put their plans on hold.

He was hoping that he would have started dialysis, found a donor, and had a successful transplant in time for the wedding, now scheduled for December 2021.

“However, this looks highly unlikely due to delays in being officially accepted on the transplant waiting list and the impact of Covid on the number of transplants being performed.”

Egan says this is why it is vital that more people become organ donors.

“I would support an opt-out system for organ donation, and I would encourage people to sign up for an organ donation card now.

“If nobody is having the conversation about organ donation, it doesn’t cross people’s minds until they are affected by it personally.”

This week is Organ Donor Awareness Week, which is organised by the Irish Kidney Association.

Between 550-600 people are on waiting lists for organ transplants in Ireland, including heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas.

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306, or by free texting the word DONOR to 50050.

People can also visit the website or download a free digital organ donor card app to their phone.