Kevin McDonald on kidney transplant trip as Dundee United recruit jokes: ‘I don’t want to look like a bag of space’

Kevin McDonald is looking for a new lease of life on the pitch after facing a desperate fight for survival off it.

Dundee United’s new boy was in dire need of a kidney transplant, but while his brother Fraser was a match and donated one of his own, McDonald’s body rejected it in the days after the operation.

That made the 33-year-old fear the worst as doctors struggled to reverse the dire situation.

A decisive treatment was prescribed for McDonald’s body to accept the transplanted kidney and after 10 days of waiting and worrying, he was given the news he had been praying for.

The kidney was functioning properly and he was able to resume a normal life.

McDonald, who could make his debut today against St Johnstone, said: “The rejection part was the hardest part as you don’t know if it’s going to work. You start thinking, ‘Am I going to get another transplant?’

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“Fortunately, he was fine before the transplant, but the rejection was a nasty rejection. You don’t feel anything and you can’t control what happens inside you.

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“They overcome it using ATG (antithymocyte globulin). I took blood samples every day and after each day I was evaluated.

“The first dose worked and as soon as the 10 days were up they said ‘you’re good to have a couple of days here and move on’.”

While McDonald’s has now made a first-class recovery, he revealed it wasn’t thanks to Royal Mail’s bungling.

The former Fulham midfielder said: “It wasn’t meant to be my brother who was going to be the donor.

“He was meant to be my best friend. Actually, it was due to Royal Mail.

“People I had nominated were sent blood stuff and my teammates sent it back and my brother sent it back.

“I went to London to see the surgeon, it was a random Tuesday night date and the surgeon said, ‘So Danny Miller,’ that’s my best friend, ‘he’s going to be your transplant.’

“I had no idea about it, so I asked, ‘But what about my brother?’

Fulham’s Kevin McDonald during the Carabao Cup match between Fulham and Southampton at Craven Cottage, London on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. (Photo by Leila Coker/ MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“The surgeon said, ‘We haven’t recovered your brother’s blood.’ It was a strange situation. So something went wrong with Danny, not because of his choice, on the medical side.

“By then my brother’s blood had already been tested, and he ended up coming and giving me his kidney. It turned out that Royal Mail had sent his blood to the wrong place! It was fun.”

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McDonald was grateful for the way the soccer community came together with Ivan Klasnic and Andy Cole, both of whom became close after going through a similar process.

But his worries were multiplied because his wife, Lucy, was pregnant and they had to isolate themselves for long periods during Covid.

The desire for a greater support network for both of them was the main reason for returning to Scotland.

McDonald was seriously considering hanging up his boots and starting his coaching career after 18 months away from the game, but his surgeon insisted he could still play at the highest level.

Having trained with St Johnstone and Dundee, he has now signed a contract at Tannadice until the summer.

McDonald said: “I had a plan in my head of where I needed to get to physically in the first place.

“I trained with Fulham Under-23s for three months, then went to Portsmouth and a couple of other local teams where we lived in Surrey.

“Then when we came to Carnoustie for a couple of weeks I contacted Dundee to train there. That’s when I was getting back into shape.

“After that I tried to come here and then to St Johnstone but it didn’t work out for Covid reasons.

“I just wanted to see different facilities at different clubs, different styles of play and that’s how we ended up here. I am grateful that this club has given me an opportunity.”

McDonald was on the bench for the Dundee derby midweek, would love to extend things beyond the summer and is confident his new kidney won’t be a problem.

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He said: “It’s about playing again and that’s why I’ve signed a contract for a few months. The last thing I want to do is go out and look like a bag of space. If I can get past that side, I’m sure I’ll play at a good level.

“In terms of what I want to accomplish, it’s about getting back to playing.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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