Kidney transplant newlyweds keep it local!

A local couple exchanged wedding vows over the August Bank Holiday weekend, grateful for their shared good health, made possible by the groom donating a kidney to his bride two years ago.

Like many couples, Garda Shane Hunter (31) from Athlone, Co Westmeath whose parents live in Dysart, Co. Roscommon, and his art teacher bride, Briona Reynolds (30) from Tubber, Co Offaly, postponed their nuptials, which were to take place last summer due to Covid-19.

They wanted to ensure that all their family and friends could be invited to share in the celebration of their happy event, grateful that Briona’s health struggles, and three times weekly hospital dialysis, were behind her.

By coincidence, Shane has known another living donor kidney transplant recipient, John Egan from Athlone, since they attended secondary school in Athlone.

Following John’s transplant last year which was thanks to his future father-in-law, the former Westmeath footballer also got married this past summer to his beautiful bride Traci. John and Traci Brennan’s wedding was held on June 5th. The happy couple exchanged vows in St. Mary’s Church, Athlone and their reception was held at Glasson Lakehouse.

Both couples are sharing their uplifting stories in support of the Irish Kidney Association in highlighting European Day for Organ Donation & Transplantation which will be held next month on October 10th.

Briona said: “We had a wonderful wedding weekend and it was great to be surrounded by all the people we love. Everything has been going so well for us over the last two years, since Shane donated a kidney to me on June 22nd, 2020.

“Sometimes we forget the struggles we experienced. We still talk about how things were back then but it’s always followed by how grateful we are for how much better things are now.

“When I think about then and now it’s like two different lives, things now are so much more relaxed. We’re currently renovating our house, planning little trips away and just enjoying life. We’ve both returned to work and life is great!”

Shane is now back working at Tullamore Garda Station and just a week before the transplant operation took place, Briona, completed her thesis for a Master’s in education, fulfilling her dream to become a secondary school art teacher. Briona secured a teaching post at Mullingar Community College and has just returned to work there after the summer holidays.

The couple were married in Mount Druid in Castletown Geoghegan and honeymooned in the south of Ireland.

“While I’ll be forever grateful to Shane for the ‘gift of life’ he has given me, I’d also like to thank his parents, Norman and Sharon Hunter, who now live in Dysart, Co. Roscommon, as well as my mam and dad, Gina and Frank Reynolds for their loving support,” Briona added.

It was a case of ‘third time lucky’ for the couple when their living donor kidney transplant went ahead in June 2020. Beaumont Hospital had suspended transplant operations before the country went into lockdown on March 27th, 2020 including Briona and Shane’s operations, which were initially scheduled to take place on March 23rd.

This was their second disappointment as a previous date for transplant, February 3rd, had also been cancelled due to safety concerns as Shane’s blood results showed irregularities at the time.

By February 2020, Briona’s kidney function had almost fully declined and she then had no option but to commence haemodialysis treatment to keep her alive.

Briona’s mother Gina Reynolds was also found to be a suitable living kidney donor match but Shane was determined that he should be the one to proceed.

Shane said: “We had a great wedding. It is so rewarding and gives me great joy to see Briona so well and that we are both happy and healthy and can look forward to what the future will bring”.