Twenty-five thousand times – that’s how often retired Stena ferry steward John Boyce reckons he has passed Tuskar Rock Lighthouse. That’s in a 43-year career at sea, sailing from Rosslare to Fishguard and back. That figure also includes 15 years as a member of the RNLI Rosslare Lifeboat crew.

So having a room in Beaumont Hospital that overlooked Dublin Port when he and his daughter, Trish, were there for their transplant operations on 1 December 2022, helped him relax.

“I love the water so it was good to be looking out on it,” he says.

John’s health problems started when he was 66, in late 2020.

Initially thought to be heart problems, he had two stents inserted to solve these cardiac issues but his lack of energy continued. Kidney (renal) failure was diagnosed a few months later.

Dialysis all the time

“I love being out mowing the lawn but I just hadn’t the energy,” he says. “My blood pressure had shot up and over the space of 10 days, my right kidney function had dropped from 14% to 8%.”

Dialysis, a medical procedure to remove waste from your blood when your kidneys can no longer do their job properly, then became a feature of John’s life. That was in February 2021. This meant getting up at 5.30a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings to travel by taxi to University Hospital Waterford.

“I’d get home at 2.30 pm absolutely wrecked,” he says.

That situation improved somewhat, however, when he was able to avail of dialysis closer to home.

“The Renal Care Centre in Drinagh is only a few miles away, near Wexford town, so it wasn’t so tiring anymore but dialysis meant I couldn’t go where I wanted. You’d have to be thinking of dialysis all the time.”

Once John was deemed medically fit to go onto the national transplant waiting list, there was a lot of family discussions at the kitchen table, especially as they were seeing the toll his medical condition was taking on him.

“We knew that Dad would need a kidney someday and we’d been told about the living donor programme so it made sense to talk about it,” says his daughter Trish. “I probably jumped the gun a bit and said I’d be prepared to put myself forward.”

Her brother, Sean, also went forward for testing but Trish was the stronger match.

“It was an 80% match, so it meant there was a good chance a transplant would work,” she says.

John fondly remembers his daughter’s willingness to give him a kidney.

“She was out of the trap like a greyhound - you couldn’t see her for dust - gone!” he says.

Trish, who has worked for Hidden Hearing in Wexford for 15 years, then took on the task of liaising with Beaumont Hospital and the Irish Kidney Association.

“I got stuck in. It was like a project to me but I let everything unfold in a timely and patient manner at the same time, thinking ‘what will be will be’.”

John Boyce and his daugher Trish at Rosslare, Co Wexford \ Patrick Browne

The day she got the news that she was a match - 8 July 2022 - is a day that they will both remember forever.

Trish was in work and she had her phone beside her.

“I could see Beaumont’s number coming up and my heart started to skip,” she says. “I texted Dad straight away. It was an unbelievable day.”

John was having dialysis when the text came through.

“It was an emotional moment. Brilliant,” he says.

Rigorous tests then followed for Trish over a period of four months but she passed all with flying colours.

The psychological testing wasn’t easy though.

“I was asked very, I won’t say upsetting, questions,” she says, “but I suppose the psychologist had to make sure I was in the correct frame of mind to go through it and that I wasn’t going to regret it.”

The operation

While the transplant operation was due to take place in September 2022, it had to be postponed until December because John got COVID-19.

“It was hard having to put it off but maybe it wasn’t meant to happen at that time,” Trish says.

In Beaumont hospital, father and daughter were given adjacent rooms and Trish remembers how she called in on her father before she went down to theatre.

“I said ‘I’m off now’ and he said: ‘Right. See you this evening’. That was the sum total of the conversation - no big emotion or anything like that. I felt calm, not a bit scared. I think staying calm got me through it.”

Trish was in theatre for three and a half hours, her father for five and all went well with both operations on the day. There was a slight glitch that night, however, for John, when his left lung collapsed.

“I was on a ventilator for a few hours which wasn’t pleasant but we were reassured that all would be okay,” John says, “and it was.”

Trish was discharged after four nights, her father after nine.

John Boyce and his daugher Trish at Rosslare, Co Wexford \ Patrick Browne

Quiet Christmas

Christmas was quiet in the Boyce household in order to keep John and Trish safe from infection but they were delighted with all the good wishes they received.

“People were so good,” Trish says. “We had loads of lovely messages.”

Looking back on it, Trish sees it as a time when they supported each other.

“On days when I was feeling a bit down, or a bit sorry for myself maybe, Dad would say something to cheer me up and vice versa. It was a team effort. ‘Team Boyce’ we christened ourselves.”

Trish was on no medication apart from pain relief after donating her left kidney and all went well with her six week check-up.


By St Patrick’s Day 2023, both were feeling well with John able to go upstairs easily again.

“It was like a new engine had been put into me,” he says.

Both have high praise for the care they received.

“It was brilliant everywhere – in Wexford General, UHW and in the Renal Care Centre in Wexford and, of course, in Beaumont,” John says.

“I never met one doctor or nurse with a sour face. We were treated like royalty from day one. I think it helps if you have a positive outlook yourself too and can have the bit of banter and a laugh.”

Trish, who has acted for 18 years, is competing currently in the RTÉ All-Ireland Drama Festival with Ballycogley Players, a south Wexford drama group. So far this year she has received four nominations for best actress playing the part of Jane Worthington in Out of Order, a farce written by Ray Cooney. Ballycogley Players have now qualified for the All-Ireland finals in Athlone in May.

Enjoying a cup of tea in the Talbot Hotel in Wexford, Trish mentions her appreciation for the support her employer gave when she had to take three months off – and sums up all that’s happened.

“Dad gave me my life and now I’ve given him his back,” she says. “It’s great to see him doing so well, being able to go where he wants when he wants again.”

John concludes by saying that people often ask him what happened to his own kidneys.

“I joke that they are at home in a box but they’re not, they are still where they always were. My new kidney was just added in. Fifteen months on, people tell me that I look amazing. The next thing they say is ‘how’s your daughter?’ ‘Flying,’ I say. We’re both flying.”

John now has quarterly check-ups and Trish has an annual one. John takes 11 tablets a day to ensure his body doesn’t reject the new kidney. Passionate about all things nautical, John is the current chairperson of the Rosslare Harbour Maritime Heritage Centre.

In brief

  • For details about carrying a donor card, visit
  • For information about living donor transplantation, visit
  • One in 10 people of the general population, and one in seven people in Ireland over the age of 50, have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
  • A simple blood or urine test can be the first step to check kidney health
  • Chronic Kidney Disease is often described as ‘the silent illness hiding in plain sight’ as it develops over time and usually doesn’t show any obvious early symptoms
  • The average wait for a deceased donor transplant in Ireland is three years
  • A live donor transplant can be organised within months, if there is a suitable donor
  • Living organ donation is possible because people can lead healthy lives with one kidney. The person’s remaining kidney increases in size and takes over the whole job of filtering their blood
  • ‘Team Boyce’ has already raised €10,000, divided equally between Beaumont’s transplant ward and the Irish Kidney Association.