‘My son has given me my life back’

Mandy and Robert Burke with Heskey. INLT 42-388-PR
Mandy and Robert Burke with Heskey. INLT 42-388-PR

A LARNE mother has described her son as a “hero” after he gave her the most precious gift of all - the gift of life.

Mandy Burke, who has suffered from diabetes since the age of 16, was diagnosed with kidney disease four years ago. As a result, she has endured constant nausea, weakness, terrible itching, loss of appetite, and severe weight loss.

Mandy’s 26-year-old son Robert watched these symptoms take their toll on his mother, and as her kidneys continued to fail, he took the brave decision to donate one of his own organs to help save her life.

“She was deteriorating in front of our eyes I knew I had to do whatever I could to help her,” he told the Times.

Robert’s family has praised his selflessness, but he simply shrugs it off and asks: “People are always saying what a big deal it was to give up a kidney, but the way I see it is, what son wouldn’t do the same for their mother?”

Mandy, who runs Ladybird Daycare Nursery at Ledcom industrial estate, spoke of her immense pride over the way her son handled the situation and said she would be eternally grateful to Robert for giving her a second chance at life.

“I just can’t get my head around what he has done for me. Not only has he saved my life, he has given me a better quality of life and the chance to live longer. Robert is so brave and selfless and will always be my hero,” she said.

While the operation was a success, everything did not go as smoothly as Mandy and her family had hoped. Just two days after the procedure, it was discovered that a clot had formed behind the newly transplanted kidney and was causing internal bleeding. She was rushed into the operating theatre for a second time.

“When I heard that my mum had internal bleeding, I was in a real state. I just thought to myself - I have done all I can to save her, but it might not be enough and I still might lose her.”

Thankfully, despite losing five pints of blood, Mandy pulled through and has praised the dedication of her surgeon and the nursing staff for the level of care she received at Belfast City Hospital.

“They really went above and beyond the call of duty to make me comfortable and ensure I was well looked after. I honestly don’t think I would not have been treated any better if I had been in private care,” she added.

Just weeks after the life-saving operation, Mandy has already noticed a huge improvement in her condition. Prior to the procedure, her kidney function was about nine per cent, but it has already shot up to about 60-70 per cent.

However, it is vital that she now avoids infection, and so she must stay indoors for the next few months and stay away from crowds.

Mandy’s mother Nancey Donnelly said: “I can’t believe the difference in Mandy already, as she has so much energy since the operation. The whole family is incredibly proud of Robert for what he has done.”

Robert was not the only family member willing to give up a kidney to help Mandy in her time of need.

She said: “My brother from Australia was willing to be a donor, as was my husband Esler and my mum and dad. Esler and Robert actually argued over who was going to be the one to do it. In the end, it turned out that Robert was the best match, and the doctor actually told me that the only way I would get a better match would be if I had an identical twin!

“When I was in hospital, there was a man in the same ward who was just waiting on a kidney to come in from a dead donor. It was very sad, and it made me feel blessed that I had so many loved ones willing to help me.”

Robert’s life-saving gift has highlighted the ongoing need for organ donation, and he has stressed that you can live a normal, healthy life with only one kidney. He is already well on the road to recovery and, despite a few scars, insists he is not any worse off than he was before the operation.

“The hardest thing for me is being told that I have to take it easy for a while, as I am quick active and get bored sitting around the house. I actually can’t wait to get back to work!” he concluded.