Tullamore farming teen takes part in transplant ski camp

A member of a dairy farming family from Tullamore, who received a kidney transplant when he was just eight years old, enjoyed the trip of a lifetime when he travelled to the village of Anzère in Switzerland to take part in a transplant adventure ski camp.

Gearóid Wrafter (14) from Loughaun, Tullamore, was among the young people from around the world taking part in the recent week-long TACKERS (Transplant Adventure Camp for Kids) ski camp.

The aim was to allow them to meet up, get to know each other and share their transplant experiences in a positive and adventurous environment.

Attended by children from eight countries, including Australia, the camp which has been running for over 17 years, is the brainchild of Swiss resident Liz Schick, a liver transplant recipient of 20 years.

Develops independence

It works to develop independence among young transplant recipients, by trying out skiing and snowboarding and other fun activities while developing a support network among their peers and their families.

The event promotes good health and the celebration of life post-transplant, while showcasing the success of organ transplantation.

Colin White, the national projects manager with the Irish Kidney Association, which runs a sports programme for people on dialysis and transplant recipients, accompanied Gearóid and two other children from Ireland on the trip.

The Irish delegation was sponsored by the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund.

“TACKERS was as amazing as ever this year,” he said. “It was a pleasure to be there with Gearoid, Maeve and Matthew, who all really embraced the event, demonstrating a great sense of fun, positivity and determination to give everything a try.

“TACKERS is a wonderful opportunity for young people to assert their independence, make new friends with young people from around the world and gain insights into their respective health journeys.”

Gearoid received his kidney transplant at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, after being diagnosed with a hereditary form of chronic kidney disease when he was six years old.

His mother Theresa said that Gearoid has been doing really well and enjoying good health since his transplant which was thanks to a deceased donor.

He can now lead a normal life and is in second year at Killina Presentation School. TACKERS proved to be a trip of a lifetime for Gearoid. It sparked something really positive in him, boosting his independence and confidence.

“He is now enjoying a sense of togetherness with his transplant peers, away from a hospital environment, keeping in contact with his new friends through Snapchat.

“As a parent you want to encourage your child to grow up to live an independent life and the camp ethos embodies the development of this, and plays it out in a really fun way.

“The affinity formed between this year’s group of children has been remarkable and already there are plans among the group to attend a future transplant sport event together,” said Theresa.

British Friesian-Holstein mix

Theresa and Kevin Wrafter run a 130 British Friesian-Holstein mix herd together and Gearoid is the youngest in the family.

His siblings are: Fabian (21) who is studying law in National University of Ireland Galway; Denise (20) who is studying business in Athlone Institute of Technology; and Ciara (18) who is sitting the Leaving Cert this year and who hopes to study dairy management at Gurteen and take over the farm.

The total stock on the farm, including replacements, is 220 and all the children help out when they can.

Theresa said the family is enormously grateful to the donor and their family who ensured that Gearoid would have a good quality of life.

Waiting for the transplant was a very anxious time and when it happened, it was a very emotional time for all involved. The message we would like to get across is that your organs are no use to you when you’re gone but it can bring solace to a family to donate their loved one’s organs to help others.

Organ Donor Awareness Week 2019, which was organised by the Irish Kidney Association, ran until April 6.

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 4,000 transplanted people in Ireland are enjoying extended life.

Talk about wishes

The focus of Organ Donor Awareness Week was to remind individuals to talk to their families about their organ donation wishes.

They can keep the reminders of their decision visible by carrying the organ donor card and permitting code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence or downloading the ‘digital organ donor card’ app to their smartphone.

Organ Donor Awareness Week also serves as a fundraising exercise for the Irish Kidney Association.

The Irish Kidney Association’s charitable activities include the provision of a 13-double bedroom free accommodation facility for patients and their families in the grounds of Beaumont Hospital, with plans for the development of a similar facility at Cork University Hospital underway.

Patients, many of whom would otherwise be unable to travel and take family holidays due to the constraints of dialysis treatment, can avail of Irish Kidney Association holiday centres in Tramore, Killarney and Tralee.

The Irish Kidney Association also provides patient advocacy; advice; counselling; financial aid; and rehabilitative health promotion through sport and kidney patient information and education through its head office in Dublin and its 25-branch network of volunteers.

Information fact files which accompany the free organ donor cards are available from the Irish Kidney Association; from pharmacies; GP surgeries; and post offices.

Organ donor cards can also be had by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on: 01-6205306; or free texting the word: DONOR to 50050. Or, you can go online to: www.ika.ie.