Worn out, battered, hungry and cold but euphoric, after running over 1000 kilometres of woodland, farmland, bog land and fourteen mountain ranges along The Ireland Way, was Dubliner Don Hannon who reached his final destination on the Beara Peninsula yesterday evening, Sunday 15th April. He was justly awarded with a Garda Escort into the Town Square in Castletownbere and a large gathering of supporters.
The 45-year-old, who lives in Sandyford in Dublin, undertook this arduous journey to raise organ donor awareness and this challenge was less than two years after he donated part of his liver to his ailing sister Therese who lives in the Isle of Man. The successful operations took place in the UK in July 2016. Following the operations, Therese, who had previously undergone a liver transplant from a deceased donor, asked Don, an avid trail and long-distance runner, to take up the challenge once he had recovered.
As he took his final laboured strides into Castletownbere, an exhausted Don’s spirits were lifted by the Garda escort leading him into the town square and the rapturous welcome he received fifteen days after he embarked on his journey out from the Giant’s Causeway on the first day of Organ Donor Awareness Week 2018 (31st March). Not only is he understood to be the first man to undertake this challenge to run the full distance of The Ireland Way, according to the Irish Kidney Association, he also smashed his goal to get over 1000 people to sign up for organ donor cards.
Among the many supporters who showed up to greet Don was his proud mother Sally as well as local artist and musician Tim Goulding, himself a liver transplant recipient. Tim and his wife Georgina, like so many others who had never met Don before, have been deeply inspired by Don’s adventure. The couple invited Don to spend the auspicious journey’s end night at their home in Castletownbere and rallied the local community to come out to support of him as his weary body made its way into their town. Other people touched by organ failure and transplantation turned out to applaud Don including members of the Cork Branch of the Irish Kidney Association.
Don: “It was an epic journey filled with fear and excitement in equal amounts. I’m very relieved to have made it to the finish. Hopefully I have inspired many people to register for Organ Donation cards."
In anticipation of Don’s impending arrival Tim said, “My wife Georgina and I are so excited to be meeting Don at the end of his epic run from top to toe of the country. There are few men or women in the whole of their health that would undertake such a venture. What makes Don doubly special is that he is inspiring many on the way to consider carrying a donor card, having successfully donated a part of his own liver to his sister. As a recipient of a new liver nearly 3 years ago I am naturally aware that I have been given a second chance in life due to a family’s generosity and foresight. Out of someone’s tragedy has sprung a new life. Us recipients share one overriding emotion, gratitude.”
Colin White, the National Projects Manager of the Irish Kidney Association said, “we have been following Don’s progress since the start of his journey and the ups and downs he experienced along the way. It is not only a tremendous physical achievement for Don, but it has also caught the imagination of people who had never met him but were inspired by his challenge and were motivated to think positively about organ donation and take steps to sign up for organ donor cards”.
For more information on Don’s epic challenge visit www.Runningdonor.com or Facebook page ‘Running the Ireland Way’.
It is thanks to the gift of organ donation that almost 3500 transplanted people in Ireland are enjoying extended life. At the end of 2017, there were 524 people active on the various waiting pools for heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants. Thanks to the selfless generosity of the families of 99 deceased organ donors in Ireland together with 51 living kidney donors, a total of 327 organs were transplanted into 321 patients including 23 children last year. 15 of these patients underwent 16 HSE funded transplants in the UK last year.
Free information factfiles, which accompany organ donor cards, are obtainable from the Irish Kidney Association and are available nationwide from pharmacies GP Surgeries and Citizen Information Offices.
Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on tel 01 6205306 or Free Text the word DONOR to 50050. Visit website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card