Northern Ireland

Organ donor series

William Johnston
Image caption William Johnston has to go through dialysis for four hours a day, four days a week.

"I'd take a big glass of water and go to the toilet."

If you asked someone what they would love to do if they had the choice, this is not what you'd expect them to say.

But to Bangor man William Johnston this would mean he has been released from what he describes as his "open prison".

Mr Johnston has been waiting for a kidney transplant for 16 years. Ironically, he was diagnosed while donating blood.

"I went to give a pint of blood at my local work in London and they said 'you're very anaemic, have you ever had kidney failure?'" he said.

"I said 'when I was three years old I did, but I've had no problems since then' and they said 'well we think you'd better go and see your GP'.

"So I went and he referred me to Charing Cross Hospital in London.

"They discovered that my kidneys had been disintegrating. So I started dialysis aged 29 years old," Mr Johnston said.

Mr Johnston did get a transplant in 1995, but it didn't work. He's been on the waiting list ever since.

He has a special room set aside in his house for dialysis - a procedure he has to go through for four hours a day, four days a week.

After nearly two decades of the same routine, Mr Johnston said he may never get the transplant he so desperately needs.

"Unfortunately, because of my situation, the likelihood of me getting a transplant now is very remote," he said.

"My family and my mother and my twin brother and friends have all put themselves forward for live donorship.

"Unfortunately none of them has been compatible. So the only situation I have now is for an altruistic live donor to come forward."

Mr Johnston gets through the hours on the dialysis machine by playing music on a laptop and looking at a map of the world that dominates one wall - places he's never been to because of his condition.

"Whenever you've got some hope it gives you strength to go through all of the restrictions and to go through the dialysis treatment.

"But when you take that hope away, you don't have much left. I'm trying to be hopeful that something might be still around the corner."

He said he knows the first thing he would do if he got the gift of a new kidney.

"Take a pint of water without feeling guilty about it and then go to the toilet because I haven't been to the toilet in eight years," he said.

"I've been dependent on the machine for so long that any fluid that I take in has to go through the machine.

"It would be amazing to just have the freedom of knowing that I don't have to go back to the dialysis machine every other day.

"I call it like being in an open prison, because you're kind of on parole. You don't get your freedom, you always have to come back to do your dialysis some time."

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