Memories of Donal Joseph O'Donoghue | Ever Loved


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I still think of him at unexpected moments & still upset how unfair life is. He was an inspirational person and I have the joy of walking into the Spine and seeing his portrait and this gives me the chance to share who he was as showing people the building 
I knew Donal for over 20 years in and around Salford. For such an eminent physician he always found time to talk with me and discuss health and well being issues for our population. I valued his insights greatly. An outstanding doctor but an even better human being. Sleep well my friend.
It is with great sadness that I learned of your passing. I was looking for the right person to discuss the situation I find myself in and I feel you were in a position to help, and that would benefit countless other people. Lithium carbonate is still being prescribed; supposedly for the brain, but long term, the kidneys cannot cope with it. I changed from lithium when my kidneys were functioning at 34% levels to semi sodium valproate. My thyroid gland started to improve and my kidney deterioration slowed. My kidney reading is now 17-20%, showing I now have chronic kidney disease stage 4, but all my efforts are not enough unless lithium is not used on humans. Thanks for reading to the end.
send wish online
2021, Canada
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Donal & me after the Pete…
Kingston, ON, Canada
Donal & me after the Peter Morrin Memorial Lecture which he gave.
As colleagues in the Northeast Regional Renal Network, we would like to express our sincere condolences to Donal's family and friends at this time. We are conscious as we work in the network that Donal paved the way for the collaborative approach to caring for people with kidney diseases which network teams have recently been able to pursue. We are most grateful to have had him as such an energetic and personable national colleague and will miss him.
Our thoughts are with his family who must be missing him terribly.
I was a patient of Professor O'Donoghue for the past 13 years. From the first time I met him he put me at ease and made me feel cared for and I could see how much he cared about his patients and how knowledgeable he was. I was meant to have my follow up appointment with him on January 5th at Salford Royal hospital and was shocked to learn of his passing. I will miss him and what a great loss to the medical profession in the UK. May he rest in peace
I consider myself very fortunate to have been one of Donal's patients for 24 years and it is with shock and great sadness that I have just learned of his passing. Over these years he was always there for me within a professional relationship that his warmth, intelligence and good humour made feel more like a trusted friendship. Never patronising or dismissive, always proactive and thoughtful, our consultations typically found a few moments for the issues of the day, whether NHS developments, Man United's defence or the challenges of his working life. He was a rock who made me feel safe. I will miss Donal immensely and wish he could have enjoyed the happy retirement he so richly deserved. That so many other people, colleagues and patients, feel the same speaks volumes for a great man.
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I met Donal at the Royal College of Physicians when I was awarded my FRCP in September 2019. He was extremely welcoming, friendly and down to earth. He was always supportive of SAS doctors and when I met him on line at an RCP SAS meeting last year, what really shone through was his willingness to engage and listen to all doctors, whatever their background and whatever their grade.
I feel privileged to have met him.
With Prof. O'Donoghue, at the…
With Prof. O'Donoghue, at the RCP dinner
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I first met Donal at the ASN in San Diego in 1995 and was immediately exposed to his terrific sense of fun when he 'borrowed' a golf cart from one of the hotels and rode it around the waterfront area (with Phil in tow, of course). His zest for life was of course seen repeatedly and wonderfully descibed by many already. We also had many chats at meetings about his vision for people with kidney disease, that many of those he would help, would never know anything about him, as their condition would not become serious enough to have to seek the counsel of a kidney doctor. This first conversation was in 1998 at the BRS in Telford, with Robert(Lewis) and Roger(Greenwood) playing their guitars in the background. We often spoke subsequently about his vision becoming a reality with all the programmes and policies he was instrumental in starting and/or supporting. He always looked for ways that industry could be included in that vision for people with kidney disease and how we could collaborate for the good of the community. His generosity in spirit and time has been aptly described by many and he conferred this to as many people in companies as he did to clincial and medical colleagues. It was an honour to be part of his circle of colleagues and thank-you to his family for allowing us to share some of his time too.
In response to "What act of kindness did you witness from Donal?"
Damian Fogarty
2007, London, Bristol, Belfast, San Francisco!!
Dear Marie, James, Daniel, Kathryn and wider family,
It is hard to know where to start in describing my relationship with Donal. I met him in the early 90s me as new registrar and he a new consultant and as others have testified he was incredibly generous in looking after his new charges who almost all became lifelong friends. Unlike some mentors whose role naturally changes as we gain experience with Donal he became more impressive to me as we matured. His enthusiasm for patient centred kind & compassionate care was quite something. Add to this wisdom, intellect and humour and you have an unrivalled mix. His effectiveness for UK kidney medicine has been covered and indeed many of us saw him as a future President of the Royal College too.

When I worked with the registry in 2010-13 he was incredibly supportive & always sung our praises; yet I knew that we were not perfect & many others would have nudged us forward with the odd critical line. He never followed that 'easy' path & indeed I never heard him say anything unkind about others, something most of us find hard to do for any length of time. He introduced me to the phrase "No one get's up to do a bad day's work!" This has stuck with me & when I use it now I will always think of him.

For balance & a good story I should mention the time when he was less than understanding....watching United play my team Arsenal in November 2007. We were at the ASN in San Francisco and the game was a noon kick off in London. Donal asked me to find out where the game was being televised. I thought he was joking as this meant getting up at 5am! No chance, he was phoning my hotel room to get me up & share a taxi across the city to the Mad Dog in the Fog pub (coffee only). His passion that day was fiery and his language at the referee equally so-his only unkind words! Game ended 2-2 so we both went to the conference reasonably happy and as always firm friends. We had many other memorable times together & he was always willing to visit and help us in Belfast most recently 4 years ago for a review of renal services. He joined Clodagh & myself for dinner where we talked long into the night about many of the issues challenging us all. We will miss him but now try harder to channel that kindness, wisdom and passion to do the best for each other and our patients. That can be a great legacy any of us would be proud to get up for.
RIP Donal.
So sad to hear of the loss of Donal. I had the honor of knowing him for the best part of 30 years. As many have said he was always great fun and so supportive. Always found the time chat, he was kind enough to present at a number of meetings I helped to organise, a truly inspirational speaker. In the days before the renal NSF he worked tirelessly to get the needs of kidney patients recognised. The introduction of eGFR testing was yet another milestone, one of so, so many things he was involved with. Donal is no longer with us but his memory will live on in all he did to improve the lives of those with kidney disease.
I was shocked and saddened to hear of Donal's untimely death. I had known Donal as a friend and colleague for around 30 years, since our early days at Renal Association meetings. He became an outstanding nephrologist who worked tirelessly on behalf of his patients and the whole renal community. He was also excellent company, and we often shared a drink in the bar after meetings, debating the merits of our respective football teams and putting the world to rights. Donal will be sorely missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.
The reason for writing this f…
The reason for writing this fills me with great sadness, but the memories with great happiness. This photo is from a BRS 5-a-side football match when Salford won - Donal joined in with every aspect of the meeting! I had the honour and pleasure of knowing Donal over a number of years during my time working in the pharma industry. Donal always greeted me like an old friend and always made time for me although he was crazily busy. He achieved so much, helped SO many people and had a great sense of humour. He was such a special person and the world will be worse without him. I was stunned by the news. My deepest sympathies to Marie and family - I am so very sorry for your loss.
I was so saddened to hear about Donal's passing. I first met him 30 years ago as members of the SR Club Committee and shared many a good evening over dinner in the RSM planning Club meetings and of course putting the world to rights. I had just moved from Belfast to Manchester and he provided me with great encouragement. We remained friends from that time. I and my colleagues greatly appreciated the support he gave to Nephrology and Renal Services in Northern Ireland.
Outside of medicine my two children remain very grateful to Donal for providing the opportunity for the 3 of us to see his beloved Man United playing at Old Trafford.
I will miss him.
I would like to pass on my sympathies to Marie and the rest of the family circle.
Henry Brown
So many things.
In a night club called Bermuda Triangle in Florida.
When we came out the car had disappeared!
We had parked close to a hydrant and it got towed to a car pound.
I cannot repeat the comments made!
Always makes me smile
He ticked all the boxes in spades. A wonderfully enthusiastic, funny and self effacing man, who hid his light under a bushel. Super bright, stellar career, yet always modest and supportive. And always great company, whether dry or lubricated! You have left a big hole, my friend.
I knew Donal for nearly 30 years having met in the Renal SR club in the early 90s. He was a great friend over the years. It was always fun to catch up with him at meetings and conferences, particularly if there was the chance to spend some time chatting in the bar late into the night.
He is a great loss to the renal community and I’m sure a greater loss to his family.
My condolences to them.
I have been reading all the tributes that have been posted since Donal’s death. I have been overwhelmed by this outpouring of love for him. It has been a great comfort to know that he was not only well respected and highly regarded but so loved. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to post on this site and to the many, many people who have sent cards and letters. They have meant so much and I will treasure them.
Donal came up to Aberdeen in 2009 to examine my thesis on CKD epidemiology. He was a delightful man who showed genuine interest in my work and was very kind to me during this stressful event. I shall have fond memories of meeting him.
In response to "What was the most fun you ever had with Donal?"
I knew Donal from my days in Edinburgh in the late 80s-early 90s, and remember him telling me (with some pride) that his forebears came from Gneeveguilla Co Kerry. We last met on a zoom meeting (a book club run by the RCP) on December 9. We chatted and joked at the end of the meeting. He was a lovely man and will be sorely missed. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Seeing all the wonderful messages and tributes to my Dad has been a great comfort over the last few weeks. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to send such heartfelt condolences. I've been meaning to post my own message on this page for a while. I know many people (+2,000) were able to view the funeral on the live stream, but I thought I would post my eulogy here as well for anyone who wasn't able to.

How do you begin to describe a man like my Dad, who achieved so much, helped so many people, gave everything he had in living life to its fullest, and still had so much left to do?

When I was thinking about how to do this, I started on the 4th of January, the day after he died. While the grief was at its freshest, I was overwhelmed by the messages and tributes so many people paid to him that day, and in the days since. He was trending on twitter, which means my Dad was one of the things the country was talking about. You could leave it there as a testament to the impact he had. I think it must be the modern equivalent of a community in collective mourning; and this community came from across the world, from the people who were fortunate to have known him. The respect for him was obvious, but what was also clear from the hundreds if not thousands of messages was the love people had for him, which is hard to put into words. I wanted to read two of those messages, which I think speak to who he was, a man who treated everyone with the same kindness, whether they were lifelong friends or new acquaintances:

Robert Lewis wrote:

"Donal was a friend an ally to me for nearly 30 years. It hit me like a physical punch when I heard the news that he was no longer with us. Donal was special; no matter how important he became, he never became self-important. He was just a great guy who had a positive effect on all those who had the privilege to know him. Many will miss his massive contribution to the world of renal medicine, but the lucky ones will also remember and miss his company at the conference hotel bar in the early hours. Thanks for everything, pal. May I pass on my deepest sympathy to Donal’s family. Thank you for sharing some of him with us.”

The second is from Matthew Graham-Brown:

“I was introduced to Donal at an Association of Renal Industry meeting in 2013 where (as a baby registrar) I felt a little out of my depth. Donal's reputation as one of the leaders of our specialty preceded him and I was a bit daunted when he came over to chat. Any fears I had were completely misplaced and we ended up sitting down for dinner and talking all evening about all number of things. Like so many have reflected he was interested in people, helping to build them up and helping them to succeed. Donal had no reason to remember me from that first meeting, but he always did and he always made time to catch-up, check-in and invariably impart some wisdom.”

I don’t think any of us outside of his professional life - and perhaps even those closest to him professionally - really knew how much he was involved in, how much good he had done. In thinking about his life, though, I’m reminded of the ‘little windows’ we had onto ‘Donal the doctor’.

There were the times when we’d be on our way back from somewhere - perhaps the football - and he’d say “I just need to pop into the hospital quickly”. We knew this meant at least a couple of hours sitting in his office while he did what he needed to do. That was an example of his dedication; or perhaps he was just keen for us to become experts at playing minesweeper on his office computer.

When we were young, we always found it funny listening to him dictate his letters, and played around imitating him, always with the regular sign-off ‘kind regards myself’.

I remember whenever anyone had a medical problem, he’d sort out - at the drop of a hat - an appointment with another doctor, who was invariably a world leader in their field. Although, if you ever asked him for medical advice at home you always got the same answer: “have a bath for yourself”…or if the ailment happened to be in your foot or ankle he’d say: “I don’t know, I never got below the knee in medical school!”

I remember as well the times we’d take one of his colleagues to watch United if we had a spare ticket, and chatting over a beer at half-time. Without fail, each colleague would also have a ‘little window’ onto ‘Donal the Man Utd fan’, and following some choice language directed at opposition players they’d say to me as we were leaving - ‘he’s very different at work you know.’

For me, the little window onto ‘Donal the doctor’ I had that most speaks to the man described in the many tributes was when we were at my secondary school - it must have been a parents evening or something. We were walking through the corridor and bumped into one of my classmates, Ozzie, and his parents. It turned out Ozzie was one of my Dad’s patients, and I remember seeing the way he talked to them as people - not patients. My mum told me recently that he always disliked the phrase ‘kidney patients’, preferring to say ‘people with kidney disease’, because their illness should not define them. Some time after that chance meeting, Ozzie died when he was 17. I remember seeing the sadness, the grief in my Dad - that he cared so much for his patients, the people he was trying to help.

So while we may have not have known the detail of all the things he did, and the things people have been remembering, the way his character has been described is certainly something I’ve been able to recognise, and I feel incredibly privileged to have had a front row seat to the life of such an amazing man.

As the tributes I read out make clear, he was an incredibly humble man. We didn’t have many deep and meaningful chats, but I remember one a couple of years ago - in a pub in London after watching the United game, obviously - and he said to me that all he’d ever wanted to do was to help people and make a difference. He’d be proud of the things he achieved and the overwhelming tributes, but that’s not the reason he worked so hard.

And he carried that hard work and incredible determination into everything he did. He decided to run the New York marathon in 2004, even though - in all fairness - he probably wasn’t what you’d call ‘an athlete’. On one of his training runs he forgot to take a water bottle - but he just kept going, for 22 miles, and looked seriously ill when he got back! Continuing with the ‘Donal the determined athlete’ theme - he used to take me and my brother Daniel cycling in the Alps every summer, adding to his list of achievements the conquering of many Grand Cols including Mont Ventoux, Le Tourmalet and Alpes d’Huez - twice. As my uncle Ged said to me, he was a lunatic who pushed everything to the extremes, and we loved him for it.

Cycling wasn’t the only passion he was able to explore on those trips to France…funnily enough we always happened to stay within spitting distance of some extremely nice restaurants with excellent wine. I’ve lost count of the number of amazing meals out he treated us all to: where most people would be happy with a trip to Cafe Rouge, he’d book a Michelin starred restaurant like when we went to La Manoir outside Oxford for my sister Kathryn’s 20th birthday - because, why not! He loved his cheeses as well, a passion he liked to share with everyone, especially his Grandson, Patrick. And of course, you can’t enjoy a nice cheeseboard without a nice glass of red wine - preferably a Pinot Noir. Anyone who saw him after a big family meal would also have seen another talent that he was famous for…falling asleep in a chair, head back, snoring softly, still with a glass of red wine in his hand tilting so it looked like it was about to spill - but it never did, and if you tried to take it off him the grip would tighten.

He was so at home during those family meals, hosting and entertaining, talking about the latest political developments or with the grandchildren about what they were learning at school. Naturally the meals were often at Christmas or birthdays, when he would have bought people the most amazing and thoughtful presents - as well as a book, of course, chosen carefully with the person in mind. His generosity of spirit, thinking of others and always giving his time for people, was something evident from when we were young. He’d go off on one of his trips, and - even though by the sounds of it he was the life and soul of any conference - he’d always come back with a suitcase full of presents for us, and more recently for the grandchildren as well.

I never knew whether his love of travelling came before his career took him all over the world, or was was a by-product of that. Either way, I remember him as someone whose thirst for visiting new places, seeking out new experiences, and understanding people across the world was never ending. He was so keen for us all to experience that with him as well, to make sure our horizons were expanded to the extreme, whether that was taking his children on some of his business trips, booking amazing holidays to Canada or Japan, or on hearing that Patrick was learning about the Titanic deciding to take us to Belfast for the weekend to see the Titanic museum and the city. Again, doing things to the extreme.

As well as his kindness, his fierce intellect, his wisdom, and his humour, we often had cause to say that he was absolutely crazy, and would wonder what his colleagues would think if they could see him. There’s too many of these memories to share in one go, and for lots of them you probably had to be there to appreciate the humour, whether that was insisting on asking a waitress for a pitcher of water when she thought he was asking for a picture, picking people up by their ears - including his ageing mother - or deliberately winding up my cousins’ dogs by opening the door and barking at them - which got him a nasty gash on his leg from a dog bite. There’s a good reason Orla, his granddaughter, referred to him as Crazy Grandad.

To the grandchildren - Orla, Isobel, Sam, and Patrick - I wanted to say that though it is unfair you have lost your grandad and won’t get to play spies, be crazy, or benefit from his advice as you grow up, you are so lucky to have known him and the memories and his wisdom will stay with you. He loved you all so much, and was incredibly proud to be your Grandad, and to help shape you into the wonderful people you are.

I wanted to finish by saying something specifically to my Mum. Of all his passions and all the things he loved, you were always at the centre of it. He adored you and you should cherish the memories, whether that is amazing holidays, being bought beautiful jewellery, or him ruffling your hair saying ‘wiggy wiggy wiggy.’ You shared so much happiness; if we can have half of the happiness the two of you shared, we’ll be incredibly lucky. I know it feels like life without Donal will be a life without that happiness, but we’re all here to make sure there are many more happy memories. That’s what Donal would want us to do.
The British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine would like to express the Society’s great sadness at the death of Donal O’Donoghue, who during his time as Registrar was a highly valued source of advice and support. The BSRM viewed him as a “friend”. Wise advice and guidance was given freely and promptly, with his characteristic warmth and candour. Like others, we will miss him professionally and personally. May he rest in peace.

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Donal O'Donoghue