Andy Jones, 39, was told he was in the end stages of renal failure, also known as kidney failure, and would need constant dialysis and ultimately a transplant
Image: Andy Jones)
A dad was given a devastating diagnosis after waking up with what felt like a hangover all the time.
Andy Jones, was born with a scarred kidney, but it didn’t affect him while he was growing up.
He believed he would “live forever”, until a blood test left him feeling like his life was over.
The 39-year-old told the Liverpool Echo “Sometimes, you know when you’ve had a good night, you deserve the hangover.
“But that’s how I was feeling all the time, after just having a pint or just having, for argument’s sake, a Chinese or a takeaway.
“My kidneys clearly weren’t working as well as they should’ve been.
“It was dragging me down. It was making me feel tired, fatigued, weak.
“And I just sensed in myself that, even knowing I’d had days like this in the past, it just wasn’t right.”
Andy sought medical attention, and was told he was in the end stages of renal failure – also known as kidney failure.
He was told he would need dialysis and a transplant.
Andy knew his kidneys wouldn’t last forever, but the news hit him hard.
He worried that he would never see his two daughters reach the age of 18.
The dad-of-two said: “I’d say for 72 hours after that conversation, my life was over, is probably the nice way of saying it.
“I wasn’t really a productive member of society. I was worried. I couldn’t see a way out.”
Andy added: “The majority of it was ifs and buts, and remorse and regrets for the past life and going out and enjoying myself in my 20s, getting drunk most weekends, eating rubbish.
“Fortunately, I quickly came to realise that I can’t dwell on that and I can’t change that.
“And actually, if I could go back now, I’d probably do it all again because I had such a good time.
“My life has been good, and long may that continue. But those first few days were just, it was more guilt, I think, and hating on myself.”
The doctor suggested he would need to reduce his body mass index to get on the waiting list for a new kidney – which meant he would have to lose weight.
So Andy took his health into his own hands and started running to get fit.
He’s managed to drop four stone from his original 17 stone weight and stave off the need for dialysis for three years, only starting the treatment in recent weeks.
Andy added: “It was tough because I was overweight and I couldn’t run more than two minutes without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack.
“But that became easier and easier, so it was just an aim of trying to get 5K completed originally. That was always the aim.”
He started going to parkruns and eventually did a half marathon, raising £2,000 for Kidney Research UK, who then offered him a place in the Great North Run in 2019.
Andy said: “Some friends who obviously know my condition were supporting me.
“As I ran past their house, they had banners and signs up, which made it quite emotional for me.
“I was expecting them to be there, but maybe for a high-five, not actual signs and banners, which was great.
“And then I just burst into tears when I finished it.
“My wife was there and the kids were there, and then a couple of other people I know who’d already completed the half marathon a bit quicker than me were waiting for me at the finish line as well.
“These people who knew how much it meant to me were there to support, and it was just phenomenal.”
Andy is determined to resist the “doom and gloom” around his disease, and he’s been back out doing parkrun since starting dialysis, but he still needs a kidney transplant.
Doctors told him he would die if he came off dialysis, which he does four nights a week at home.
His wife offered her kidney, but it wasn’t a suitable match, so they in an NHS scheme that helps to match couples where one partner needs a transplant.
Andy wants people to talk with their families about organ donation this Christmas, as their gift in death could give another person a chance at living.
He said: “Make sure people are aware of your wishes for organ donation.
“It’s not a great conversation to have. It’s not a comfortable conversation to have.
“But also, you and I don’t know if we’re going to step outside and get hit by a bus. So it’s quite an important message.
“If something unfortunate was to happen to yourself, would you want someone else to benefit?”
Anthony Clarkson, director of organ and tissue donation and transplantation at NHSBT, said: “Wherever and however people in Merseyside plan to spend this Christmas, we hope that everyone will be able to enjoy the festivities and spend some much needed time with family and friends.
“For many thousands of people across the country, including 52 people in Merseyside who have had transplants this year, the only reason that they are able to enjoy a happy and healthy Christmas is thanks to the generosity of a donor and their family who so selflessly chose to give the gift of life.
“However, there are still thousands of people who are still desperately hoping and waiting for the transplant that will transform their life.
“Please take a moment this Christmas to let your family know your organ donation decision.
“Those conversations could help save the lives of people currently spending their Christmas waiting for a transplant.”
The law around organ donation changed from an ‘opt in’ system to an ‘opt out’ one in England, Wales and Scotland, but families are still always consulted before organ donation takes place.
Only 42% of the UK population has registered their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and just 37% say they have shared their organ donation decision with their family, NHSBT said.
Mr Clarkson added: “We know that for many thousands of people across the UK, including 96 people in Merseyside, the greatest gift they could receive this year will be a phone call telling them that a donor has been found for them.
“Please let your family know your organ donation decision and leave them certain of your decision”
For more information, or to register your organ donation decision visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.