Covid-19 has had a "serious unwelcome impact" on patients awaiting organ transplants, many of whom had been forced to cocoon inside, the chairman of the Irish Kidney Association has said.
There was huge "fear and anxiety" over the risks to vulnerable patients contacting the disease, Colin Mackenzie, national chairman of the organisation said on Tuesday.
Mr Mackenzie was speaking at the virtual launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week, which runs from March 27th until April 3rd.
“Initial medical advice was to cocoon. Suddenly people previously leading a normal life, can no longer attend work or socialise,” he said.
“There was fear and anxiety about the risks amongst patients attending hospitals. This has also been a significant impact on people’s mental health,” he said.
The Irish Kidney Association was aware of several people on dialysis and others in the transplant community who had died due to Covid-19, he said.
Ian O’Doherty (46), from Castletroy, Co Limerick, has been in the Mater hospital since last July, awaiting a heart transplant.
He had heart problems from a young age, and has been receiving treatment in the Mater hospital for the past 18 years.
“My heart has come to its end, and now I’m at the stage I can’t survive without these machines,” he said.
“It’s not an easy road, not only yourself do you suffer, your family suffers with the worry,” he said.
Speaking at the Organ Donor Awareness Week launch, he said he had not seen his daughter since Christmas. “Being stuck in here, in a little room 24/7, it’s very lonely, I miss my daughter so much, I miss my dog, my own surroundings, my own comforts,” he said.
Twice he was prepared for a transplant, only for it to fall through, which he said was very difficult. He is hoping the third time will be the lucky one.
“I tell myself if I waste a year in here waiting for a heart, well please God I gain 20, 30 years of a new life with my daughter and my family,” he said.
Last year, a total of 190 organ transplants were carried out despite the coronavirus pandemic, 84 less than in 2019.
This included 123 kidney transplants, 37 liver transplants, 16 lung transplants, nine heart transplants and five pancreas transplants. Of the donors, 28 were living and 62 were deceased.
At any given time there are between 550 and 600 people on waiting lists for organ transplants.