Offaly transplant recipient enjoys skiing 'trip of a lifetime'

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Local teenager Gearóid Wrafter from Loughaun, Tullamore experienced the trip of a lifetime when he recently travelled to the spectacularly beautiful village of Anzère in Switzerland.

The object of this trip was for transplant recipient children from around the world to meet up, and partake in the TACKERS Ski Camp, allowing them the opportunity to get to know each other and share their transplant experiences in a positive
and adventurous atmosphere.

Gearoid, now aged 14, received his lifesaving kidney transplant when he was eight years old, 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 explains: "Gearoid has been doing really well and enjoying good health since his transplant, which is 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 news 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."

The week-long camp was held from March 10-17, and was attended by children from eight countries including Hungary, Israel and as far away as Australia.

The camp which has been running for over seventeen years is the brainchild of Swiss resident Liz Schick, who herself is a liver transplant recipient of 20 years. The name TACKERS is an acronym for Transplant Adventure Camp for Kids. The aim of the annual camp is to develop independence amongst young transplant recipients, by trying out skiing and snowboarding and other fun activities while developing a support network amongst 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, who is 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 were kindly sponsored by the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund (www.pkrf.ie). He said that "TACKERS was as amazing as ever this year. It was a pleasure to be there with Maeve, Gearoid 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.” 

Organ Donor Awareness Week 2019 which is organised by the Irish Kidney Association, will take place from March 30 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.
 
The focus of Organ Donor Awareness Week is to remind individuals to talk to their families about their organ donation wishes and keep the reminders of their decision visible by carrying the organ donor card and permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s license 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. Throughout the week, the association’s volunteers will be out on the streets, and in shopping centres throughout the country, distributing organ donor cards while selling forget-me-not-flower emblems, brooches, pens and shopping trolley discs. All proceeds go towards the Irish Kidney Association’s support for patients on dialysis and those patients fortunate enough to have received a kidney transplant.

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 and plans for the development of a similar facility at Cork University Hospital are underway. Patients, many who would otherwise be unable to travel and take family holidays due to the constraints of dialysis treatment, can avail of IKA holiday centres located in Tramore, Killarney and Tralee.  

The Irish Kidney Association also provides patient advocacy, advice, counselling, financial aid and rehabilitative, health promotion through sport and the provision of kidney patient information and education through its head office in Dublin and its 25-branch network of volunteers nationwide.
 
Information fact files, which accompany the free organ donor cards, are obtainable from the Irish Kidney Association and are available nationwide from pharmacies, GP surgeries and post offices.
 
Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association tel. 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. Visit website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card. You can now download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.