A north-east footballer who was seriously ill says he can’t thank his mum enough after she saved his life by offering one of her kidneys.
Footballer Scott Whelan had been living in America with his wife and young child when he started getting progressively sicker at the start of last year.
The diagnosis that followed came as a surprise, as did his family members’ willingness to go under the knife on his behalf.
Now recovered and back on the pitch with Turriff United, 29-year-old Scott has shared his story as Scotland marks the end of Organ Donation Week.
‘I didn’t want to admit to myself’
At first, Scott feared he had maybe picked up “this new Covid virus” that had started spreading across the world.
While he had a long-running gut feeling something was wrong with his body, he’d been trying his best to ignore it.
“I was getting progressively worse over the years but, a typical man, I didn’t want to tell anyone that something was going on and kept it to myself,” he said.
Scott had started being sick all the time and when a Covid test came back negative, his GP sent him for further investigations.
“When they got the chest x-ray, they stood back, shocked,” Scott recalled, “I had a ton of fluid in my lungs.
“It was panic stations at the time – they did an instant blood test and found out that I wasn’t just in kidney failure, I was in end stage kidney failure.
“That can take around 10 years to happen.
“This had been happening progressively for me for years – I kind of knew, but didn’t want to admit to myself that something was going on.”
‘They didn’t think I had five years’
Scott was immediately placed on dialysis, with machines used to filter his blood as his kidneys were no longer functioning.
He had to repeat this process three times a week, until his family made the decision to move back home to Aberdeen.
“I was hoping I’d stay in the US, but they said the transplant waiting list in Houston was about five years,” Scott said.
“Unfortunately, my doctor didn’t think I had five years [and my] body wasn’t reacting as well to dialysis as they thought.”
As he waited on the transplant list, he was able to complete dialysis at home – this time requiring four hours of it every day.
His family rallied together to get tested and find out if they could be a match for Scott, allowing them to donate one of their own kidneys.
He said: “Luckily enough, my mum stepped forward saying she really wanted to do it.
“As a father myself, I can see why. You don’t want anyone else going through that when it’s your child.”
Lacing up the boots once more
Scott and his mum Debbie were given a date of May 5 2021 for the transplant to take place.
It all went successfully and, after 18 days in hospital, he was able to return home.
Scott is now back pursuing his passion of playing football, and told our Highland League Weekly programme about the difficulties surrounding his return to the pitch.
He said: “Last year I was a coach at Huntly, but I could see in training I still had that fight in me, I was dying to get back and play.
“I was just itching to get back.”
Watch the full episode of Highland League Weekly here, featuring more about Scott’s story and his return to football, an in-depth discussion of the Scottish Cup first round, and your chance to vote on the goal of the season so far.
‘She’s given me life twice’
Scott said he will never be able to fully thank his mother for donating one of her kidneys to him.
“She’s a typical old-school NHS nurse, she just gets on with things,” he said
“She didn’t want to be thanked for what she had done – she just thought it was something she had to do.”
And Scott feels it is important he shares his story, in the hopes of inspiring others who may find themselves in a similar position.
“I’m glad to do this so people know that, if they get diagnosed with kidney failure, liver failure, any of these diseases where transplant is the option, you can come back from this.
“You will have to be patient – and it won’t be easy.
“My mum’s basically give me life twice now. I can’t thank her enough for what she’s done.”