“Don’t take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here”. This valuable phrase was quoted by Maxie Scully. It coincides with Organ Donation Awareness Week. The event gives people the chance to become an organ donor or obtain information on organ donation.
Maxie Scully died on the 12th of August 2006 after a lifetime battle with illness. He was 52 years of age. While that was very young, he led an incredible life due to organ donation.
At the age of 19 he got accepted in to the Irish Army Equitation School that would further his career in horse riding. After a series of medical tests, Maxie was struck down with Good Pasture Syndrome. The World Record breaker and once Irish International show jumper was told at the age of 21 that his kidney had failed and he was given three days to live. During the Christmas of 1974, his family were told to prepare themselves for the inevitable.
Maxie received a kidney on the 13th of September 1975 that did not take to his body at first. After weeks of dialysis and blood transfusions doctors feared the worst. Maxie’s father Mark was a well established vet in Galway at that time and gave his son powerful horse medication. He didn’t make Maxie take them but left them at his bedside and after serious suffering and anguish he took them as a last resort and the new organ finally made a home. He went on to live for 30 years and at the time of his death was Ireland’s longest surviving kidney transplant recipient.
Upon leaving the hospital Maxie was told to never drink alcohol, smoke or ride horses or partake in any physical activities. He later convinced a friend to allow him play on the wing for a rugby game and with no effects from the game he made two decisions. Firstly he would never play rugby again but he would concentrate on his number one passion- horses.
One evening during the RDS, Maxie watched some amateur horses competing and took particular interest in an 18” chestnut gelding. Later that night he bargained with the owners and bought the horse named Drumlogan. The next day he signed himself up for the high jump competition. Horse riding is not only a strenuous sport but takes serious skill and fitness. Maxie defied all the odds that night in the Simmonscourt indoor arena in Ballsbridge and broke a Guinness Book World Record after he jumped the highest jump bareback.
His family and friends said Maxie had reached his goal but that didn’t stop the strong willed man. He went on to have a very successful career in horse riding and wore the green jacket on several occasions. Maxie said how these goals and targets are what got him out of bed every day and drove him to succeed.
With the new kidney he became unstoppable and so his second love athletics became a major part of his life. In the 1970’s the World Transplant Games were established. One year the transplant games were held in Japan and at a press conference the President of the organisation Dr. Maurice Slapack was met with criticism by the Japanese who see organ donation as murder of the spirit and it was illegal in Japanese law.
Maurice was puzzled by the questioning when Maxie approached the microphone where it was said that he spoke so articulately and emotionally of his own experience. The following day a press conference was called which was led by Maxie. “Transplantation of organs give life and the spirit of the donor, if anything, lives on” he said. After a series of questioning by the media, the Japanese Government changed the legislation and legalised organ donation.
In 1995 disaster struck again and Maxie had to receive a triple heart bypass. His then his thriving King conservatory and double glazing business had to be abandoned as he began his road to recovery. The horses though were never left in the field. Only weeks after having major open heart surgery, Maxie brought his horse Kinglogan to Clonshire to take part in a high jump competition. After training the horse and preparing him, Maxie took a turn earlier that day and decided to hand the reins to his close friend Michael Blake. Michael and King broke yet another record but this went unrecorded.
In the years that followed Maxie gave numerous lessons and equestrian clinics all over Ireland. In 1997 Maxie organised a charity ride from Craughwell in Co.Galway to Scariff in Co.Clare. The event involved a number of horses to ride through the day and night but only one jockey – Maxie. Followed closely by the Red Cross, he completed the trip in two days and arrived into the East Clare Equestrian centre on the opening of the state of the art arena.
His passion for horses and want to help others was Maxie’s ambition that drove him to achieve the inevitable in life. He organised numerous charity rides for the Blazers hunt in Co.Galway and brought along some famous faces to front the ride. Over the years Sharon Shannon, Steve Collins and Irish soccer physio Mick Byrne were part of the charity ride.
In the early noughties, Maxie’s heart began to weaken and after an assessment in the UK he was placed on the heart organ donation list. Expecting such a major organ one would be expected to rest and prepare for the open heart surgery- not Maxie. He continued riding horses, took an auctioneering course and opened his own business.
In 2004 he got a new horse, a black cavalier stallion – King Cotton Gold. After weeks of training the new animal he began to compete. Maxie saw huge potential in the horse and after Ireland’s disappointing performance in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, he turned his attention to the 2008 Olympics. He set himself a new goal.
On the 5th of March 2005 Maxie faced his biggest setback in life -he lost his only son Marcus in a car accident. The trauma, pain and shock caused Maxie to deteriorate rapidly. He felt angry that he lived a life of illness and his son’s life was cut short. In the months that followed Maxie’s goals slipped further away as his health dwindled. On the 12th of August, during his favourite equestrian event, the RDS horse show, Maxie drew his last breathe.
He may have only been 52 years old when he died, an age considered extremely young nowadays but he proved an inspiration. At only 21 years old he was given three days to live but after a family kindly granted him a new life, a new kidney, he got to live a life of goals, ambitions and fulfillment. He defied all the odds and did more in life than most. With organ donation day approaching think about the difference that an organ can make to a life and carry an organ donation card. As Maxie said “Don’t take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here”.
Organ Donation Awareness Week April 1st-8th
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