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Lilian Irvine from Galashiels paid tribute to the donors who transformed her life, as she scooped the Unsung Hero Award at the 2013 Scottish Health Awards.

Lilian, who has worked for the NHS for the last 24 years, was recognised for her tireless fundraising work to establish and expand a dialysis unit in Borders General Hospital for the benefit of those living with renal problems. Lilian herself knows first-hand of the problems experienced by patients and their families as she has undergone two kidney transplants - her first in 1971, and a second transplant in 1987.

Prior to her second transplant, Lilian had to travel to Edinburgh from the Borders three times a week for dialysis and wanted to establish a facility locally to help people like her.  She formed the Border Kidney Patients Trust in 1987 and just over a year later, the Trust had raised over £100,000 enabling the first 3-bed dialysis unit to officially open in March 1989. 

The fundraising didn't stop there, and over the next 25 years, Lilian's fundraising efforts tipped the £250,000 mark, with a 12-bed unit now in place within the hospital.  The original unit is named the Lilian Rutherford suite, after Lilian.

Speaking at the event, Lilian said: "The donors who allowed me to live are the unsung heroes.  So many people across the country make the most generous decision to help others live, and people don't know who they are.  I needed two kidney transplants, my first when I was just 17, and will never be able to thank my donors enough for giving me the gift of life.  My work with the Border Kidney Trust was about giving something back. 

“When people saw how ill I was, everyone in the area got behind the cause and together we helped create a service which is improving the lives of those living with renal problems.  I'd encourage anyone reading this to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and talk to their relatives about their wishes, it saved my life and I'll always be grateful."