Musician Raising Organ Donation Awareness

By Thomas Lyons

Tommy Flaherty

Every day four people die in Ireland and the UK needlessly through lack of suitable donor organs. There are many reasons why donations do not happen, but the main one is because of a lack of awareness about the process.

Raising awareness about the importance of organ donations is essential to halt these unnecessary deaths.  One man who looks to change public perception is Longford man Tommy Flaherty.  When his partner found herself in need of a kidney transplant Tommy was confronted with the difficulties experienced by those on transplant waiting lists.

Tommy decided to use his musical talents and experience to address the issue: “I’ve been playing music since I was old enough to hold a set of drum sticks. I also play a bit of guitar and over the years I have been fortunate to have worked with well known names like Declan Nerney, Jimmy Buckley, Robert Mizzel and Mick Flavin.”

The seed of the idea came to him while he and his partner were in Birmingham waiting on her call for a transplant: “When I was in the hospital I was reading an article on transplants.  It said that in Ireland and he UK between four and eight people die every day because of the lack of donors. When you think about it there is no reason for that to happen.”

The Longford musician said that the process of writing “The Gift of Life” was different to any other he had composed:  “The problems we were experiencing were playing on my mind.  One night I was finding it hard to sleep so I got up and picked up the guitar.  Some songs would take months to come together, this came in half an hour.”

Not long after Tommy was in studio recording an album of his own music with Paul Gurney.  He spoke to the producer about “The Gift of Life”.  From there another musical heavyweight contributed to the song: “I brought the song into Paul and asked him to have a listen to it.   The song is about organ donations.  Paul suggested that Charlie McGettigan might have a look at it.  I thought that was a great idea.”

Tommy said that the renowned Leitrim singer songwriter was very helpful: “Charlie is the master craftsman. I played it for him and he took it home and tweaked a few things.  The song is a slow song, it deals with death, but it is really about hope.”

What happens next to “The Gift of Life” is up to others, but Tommy hopes it can make a difference to public perception:  “I have sent it on to the Irish Kidney Association, I don’t know if they will use it, or what they will use it for, but what I have done this for is to raise awareness.  You cannot buy an organ donation.  You can have all the money you want in the bank, but if you don’t have a donor it is no use.  What I want out of this is for people to carry organ donation cards.”