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‘I’m here to save someone’s life’

Posted on January 26, 2017 by Westwind Weekly
Herald photo by Ian Martens Shamus Neeson, a radio host with B93.3 FM, is scheduled to give one of his kidneys next month to an old friend of his in need of organ donation. @IMartensHerald

J.W. Schnarr
Southern Alberta Newspapers

A local radio host hoping to provide a life-saving kidney donation to a stranger discovered how small the world can be when that stranger turned out to be an old friend.

Shamus Neeson is the midday announcer for B93.3 FM in Lethbridge. Two years ago, he started the journey to become an organ donor  after a friend of a friend shared their eight-year-long search of a kidney on Facebook.

“She was going through dialysis three nights a week, and she was convinced she would never get one,” Neeson said. “She had tried and tried, but never matched up with anyone, and was convinced she was going to die. This was her last effort to try and find someone who could match with her.”

Neeson said the story listed the woman’s blood type along with the plea for help. As it happened, Neeson shared a blood type with the woman.

Neeson said he reached out to Canadian Blood Services and began the testing process to see if he was an eligible match.

“I went through a ton of testing,” he said, “So much, in fact, that I thought I was going to develop mutant powers with the radiation, and all that jazz.”

Through testing, Neeson’s kidneys were deemed high functioning, making him eligible for donation.

The next step would be determining if his kidney was a compatible match through the Kidney Paired Donation program. It was at this time the woman was told Neeson was trying to donate his kidney to her.

“She was over the moon,” he said. “She was super excited.”

It turned out that the two were a compatible match

In November 2015, Neeson received a call stating his blood pressure was too high for donation. He could either give up coffee or lose some weight.

“I told them if I stopped drinking coffee, people would die,” Neeson joked. “So I lost the weight.”

It was during this waiting stage that Neeson learned the woman would no longer need his kidney.

A man who passed away in a car accident had signed his organ donor card and was a match, meaning Neeson’s kidney would no longer be needed.

“Basically, that one night, she got a kidney, and the gentleman in the next bed going through dialysis as well got the other kidney,” Neeson said.

While the news was good for all involved, Neeson found himself in limbo with no donor waiting for his kidney. He was placed in the anonymous donor program until a match could be found.

“It meant I was still good to go,” he said. “I wouldn’t know who I was donating to, but I’m here to save someone’s life.”

He put the word out that he was looking for someone to donate to, and learned again on social media of the spouse of a friend in need of organ donation.

That person turned out to be an old friend from high school.

And through the screening process, it was determined the two men were a match. Their surgery date is set for Feb.8 in Calgary.

“This is definitely awesome,” Neeson said. “It’s such a small world. We’ve hung out a fair bit ever since that first conversation.”

Neeson admitted he is very nervous about the upcoming surgery. He said he has been asked about his children, and if he has considered the fact one of them may need a kidney one day.

He said there are two factors to consider. The first is that the pre centage of one of his children needing a kidney donation is very low. There is also no guarantee that if they did need one, that he would be a match for them.

Neeson say he hopes his story will encourage more people to at least look into organ donation, as there is a great need in the country.

“You don’t have to commit to anything,” he said. “But look into it. See how you can help somebody.”

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, there are more than 4,600 Canadians awaiting organ transplant. Nearly 80 per cent of those on the transplant list are waiting for a kidney.

For more information on becoming an organ donor, please visit Canadian Blood Services at blood.ca.

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