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Newcastle’s iconic bridges walk raises kidney awareness across the city by Sarah Williams

17 July 2019

On Sunday 14 July, nearly 200 people came together to take on one of Kidney Research UK’s flagship challenge events and raise awareness of kidney disease in Newcastle. Kidney patients, transplant patients, and donors were joined by family, friends – and many dogs – at this year’s Newcastle Bridges Walk, raising money for life-saving research work.

Family at Newcastle Bridges Walk

Walking in hope

Among the walkers was Amrik Kandola, father of two-year old Anaya, who urgently needs a kidney transplant. Born with a very rare kidney condition, autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD), Anaya is kept alive thanks to dialysis. A transplant is her only hope of leading a normal life.

Walking with family and friends as Team Hope4Anaya, Amrik said: “Anaya has fought so many battles in her short life. She’s undergone five operations, had chest infections and a stroke at six months. But she’s so determined and amazes us every single day.

“There are less organs for donation available in our community, so we’ve been actively campaigning and raising awareness nationally in the hopes that we may find a donor for our daughter as we, her parents, were not a match. Through the campaign we’ve met a lot of generous people and, astonishingly, some that weren’t a match for Anaya, have gone on to donate to others.

“So, for us, Anaya has been a blessing in disguise; she’s our inspiration. Other lives may have been saved because of her and that’s why team Hope4Anaya is here today to walk and raise even more awareness.”

Team Hope4Anaya at Newcastle Bridges Walk

Renal team walkers

Professor John Sayer, clinical professor of renal medicine at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, was joined on the walk by a team of renal researchers.

He said: “I’m really excited to see Kidney Research UK here in Newcastle for this event. The city is a centre of excellence for research into kidney disease and the charity has strongly supported that renal research through long term and dedicated funding.

“With over 120,000 people in the North East alone diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, raising awareness of all aspect of the disease is vital and I’m proud to be walking with so many people today.”

Volunteers help make the day

Gillian is a transplant patient about to celebrate her second kidney-versary.

“I’ve family members with polycystic kidney disease, and it has also impacted my life, so I really understand the need for research and what discoveries can mean for patients.

“My diagnosis was some 30 years ago but my kidneys only started failing in my mid-50s. I was very fortunate and had a pre-emptive transplant, receiving a kidney from my sister. It was taken out in Oxford and flown here to Newcastle and transplanted into me after I had both of mine removed.

“I’ve been able to be involved in research – am part of the 100,000 Genomes Project and I’ve now signed up to the national registry of rare renal diseases (RADAR). If my samples can be used to help researchers and contribute towards understanding, discovery and new therapies, then I’m all for it!”

Celebrating the walk

On their return across the Millennium Bridge all the walkers were cheered and greeted with medals.

It was Professor Sayer, his son Rueben and researcher Thomas Myerscough who made it back first, only just pipping at the post Derek Hutchinson, who was the first transplant patient to cross the finishing line.

Even the dogs, like Cara who walked all the way with her ball in her mouth and wearing her fan wig like a hula skirt, were roundly applauded.

“All in all, it’s been a very special day,” said Marc Shaw, head of community and events at Kidney Research UK. “There’s been great camaraderie between the walkers, staff and volunteers. The sun came out and Newcastle shone. It was moving to see so many people whose lives are affected by kidney disease taking on the walk and raising even more awareness and funds to power our research.

“We can’t wait to be back next year and need your continued support to make the walk even bigger and better. Registration for interest is open and we’d love to see you join us again, so we can continue to fund research that will help bridge the gap between kidney disease and a cure.”

You can see the official photos of the day here and we'd love it if you could join us for Newcastle 2020, register your interest. Or if you can't wait until next year, why not join us in Scotland in September at our Glasgow Bridges Walk.

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