Inspirational double amputee and transplant recipient, Ronnie McIntosh passed away on Thursday 3 January, aged 62. Here, transplant surgeon Lorna Marson, remembers the charismatic character who achieved so much for the organ donation cause and who will be sorely missed by so many.
I am proud to have called Ronnie McIntosh my friend.
When Ronnie was called in for a kidney transplant on May 15th 2009, there was a discussion amongst members of the team as to whether we should go ahead. From the end of the bed, Ronnie did not look fit enough to survive the surgery. As the surgeon who would be undertaking the transplant I went to speak first to Ronnie and then to his wife, Celia. The message from both of them was clear: “just give me a chance of a life free from dialysis, please”. The donor family that night, and the transplant team at Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh gave him that chance, and he seized it with both hands.
Despite having lost both legs during a complicated time when he started dialysis, Ronnie was determined that this new opportunity for life would allow him to return to his passion: running. He worked hard alongside members and friends in his running club: the Dundee Hawkhill Harriers, to build up his distance on his artificial limbs and in September 2011, on the day that saw the start of a major European transplant Congress in the same city, Ronnie and I took part in the 10K Glasgow run. This was the farthest distance that Ronnie had undertaken on artificial limbs, and his determination and sheer grit overcame the severe pain that he was in at times. Whenever one of the other participants chatted to us on the way round, Ronnie spoke to them of the gift of organ donation and his thoughts for donor families. I have completed several races before and since, from 10k to marathons, but I have never been more proud to cross the finish line as I was with Ronnie that day.
Ronnie went on to win the Sunday Mail Scottish Sports Award in 2011, and was extremely proud to be selected as one of the Olympic torch bearers through his beloved city of Dundee. Last summer was the last time I saw him: he arrived a little late to our transplant roadshow in Dundee, having spent the morning chatting to primary school children. He was wearing his Olympic track suit and proudly carrying his torch, and went on to tell his story to the assembled gathering of potential transplant recipients, living donors and families. He was truly an inspiration to us all, and never stopped appreciating the generosity of organ donors and their families.
I have lost a friend. Scotland has lost a champion for organ donation.