Organ donation: the gift of giving

Organ donation: the gift of giving
Personal Profile
Colm Fitzpatrick speaks with a kidney failure sufferer


Although organ donation is very rarely spoken about in a religious context, a parish priest is calling on all people to think about this worthy and self-sacrificing act.

Fr Patrick Guilfoyle, who is now 72, has been a parish priest based in Tullaroan, Kilkenny, for the past 14 years. However, when he attended the doctor two years ago, it came as a huge shock when he was told that he had developed kidney failure. This prognosis was far from what he had expected during this visitation and has completely change his life ever since.

“When they told me, I got very upset over it, then they sent me down to Waterford, the nurse down there, he explained the whole thing to me, about the dialysis and that,” Fr Patrick explains.

“I had a terrible cold, and my usual doctor was away on holiday, and I went to a different doctor in Kilkenny and he took a blood test and it was from that, that they discovered it,” he continues.


Fr Patrick felt no pain or aches around his kidney area, which added to the surprise of being diagnosed with the ailment.

It is estimated that one in 10 of the general population have some degree of kidney impairment and have substantially increased risk of death, even prior to developing end-stage kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease means that the kidneys, over time, have lost their ability to perform as well as they used to, which ranges from mild to severe, which usually requires dialysis or a kidney transplant. There are various symptoms of this disease, ranging from loss of appetite and fatigue to vomiting and nausea. The symptoms range from person to person, and some people may not have any of these difficulties at all.

Fr Patrick has been receiving dialysis treatment at the Wellstone in Kilkenny three times a week for two years (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). He leaves the house at 6.50am by taxi and finds he is very tired when gets back and goes to bed for a few hours before resuming his duties.

“The doctor told me it was either dialysis or I’d be knocking on the little golden gate,” says Fr Patrick.

Although it can be strenuous to carry out his priestly responsibilities, he receives a lot of help from parishioners who volunteer for church services, and also accommodate themselves to Fr Patrick’s time schedule.

“I’m able to manage alright. The people are very good, they help me. If there was a funeral they would leave it until 2pm so I can do the dialysis,” he explains.

“The parish are very supportive. They help me out with the newsletter and different things in the church, he adds, noting his appreciation of Mass readers and Eucharistic leaders.

Although undergoing dialysis can be a time-consuming process, Fr Patrick is still able to enjoy art class which he attends every Monday night and he also plays bridge with some friends every Thursday night.

He even went to Fatima last year and dialysis treatment was organised from him while he was there.

The dialysis process isn’t a burden either adds Fr Patrick, which lasts about three-and-a-half hours, during which he sleeps or reads. Although it can be arduous at times having this disease, Fr Patrick maintains that his Faith and prayer help him through any difficulties. When asked whether he ever questions God’s motives for allowing him to develop it, he says “not really”.

“I accept it as it came. That was it. You feel kind of sad over it, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”

The Irish Kidney Association (IKA) Organ Donor Awareness Week 2018 will take place from March 31 until April 7. The focus of the week is to raise awareness about the ongoing and ever-increasing demand for organ transplantation which relies on public donation.

The key message is that families talk to each other about this and apply for and carry the organ donor card and permit Code 115 to be included on their driver’s license. The IKA will also be fundraising throughout the week and volunteers will be on the streets and in shopping centres throughout the country, distributing organ cards and other items related to the cause, with all proceeds going towards aid for patients on dialysis and those who have received a kidney transplant.


There are approximately 550 people in Ireland awaiting life-saving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants. Thanks to the gift of organ donation, almost 3,500 people with transplants in Ireland are enjoying an extended life.

For Fr Patrick, this is a vital cause and he believes that all people should sign up for an organ donor card because of the important impact it can have on other people. He realised this during his time as hospital chaplain in St Luke’s, Kilkenny, where he saw first-hand the benefits of organ donation.

“That’s my prayer at the moment – that I will eventually get a kidney. The doctor has done some tests on me and said I would be okay to get a kidney,” he says.

“Go ahead and sign up and carry the card.”

To request an Organ Donor Card, see: