Kidney transplanted TikTok doc is making Covid science easy to understand
A kidney transplant patient is making a name for himself on the social media platform TikTok by joining a team of young medics helping make Covid vaccine science easy to understand.
Dr Will Budd is a clinical research doctor at Imperial College, London, and in his spare time is reaching thousands of young people around the world with his TikTok videos.
Will is among medics around the globe taking part in a United Nations project called Team Halo.
It is a far cry from his childhood when his mum bribed him with Minstrels chocolates for the regular kidney function blood tests that scared him so much, he would pass out.
“When I announced I wanted to be a doctor my friends couldn’t stop laughing. It was a standing joke that the sight of blood made me pass out,” Will said.
“Looking back at all those tests, being ill, hospital stays, including the transplant, it taught me a lot about medicine without me even realising,” he added.
Vaccines and videos
Now 25 and fully qualified - just before Covid hit at the start of 2020 - Will is at the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic by working on vaccines by Imperial, Oxford, and Janssen.
He works as a clinical trials doctor, helping run the trials as well as getting involved in screening, determining eligibility, vaccinating, data gathering and checking side effects in the trials.
His work led to him being invited to join Team Halo, an initiative by the United Nations and TV channel HBO, to make science easy to understand.
The project involves young doctors, researchers and laboratory staff, who work on the Covid vaccines from 19 countries, including South Africa, America, France and Brazil.
They have joined forces to share their findings and create short videos to educate the public, particularly young people.
Will is passionate about research having lived with kidney disease since he was a baby and has signed up to every research opportunity going to make life better for kidney patients.
Diagnosed with posterior urethral valves at birth, he suffered reflux, and at six months old, doctors discovered he had low kidney function.
“My twin brother George and older brother John both had the same condition but theirs did not lead to kidney failure, whereas I was followed up by Great Ormond Street Hospital until I was 18 and told I would probably need a transplant in my 20s.”
Transplant from brother
As a result, the siblings are in the 100,000 Genomes Project, which studies the genetics behind diseases that run in families.
Will had his transplant at the age of 20 thanks to older brother John being his donor.
“Just before my transplant at the Royal Free in London, I had a blood pressure cuff on my arm for a few minutes, three times, which tricks the body into thinking it has high blood pressure. Apparently, this releases a chemical in response, which has shown to make kidney transplants last longer. Fascinating stuff.”
After the transplant, Will felt immediately better and couldn’t believe how he had normalised his fatigue.
Just three weeks later, he sat his first-year medical exams, which he had originally missed because he was in hospital.
“That was tough, but I was determined not to let kidney disease ruin my university time and delay my career progression,” he said.
A year later, in 2017, Will ran a half marathon for Kidney Research UK to say thank you.
For Will, research is everything, and he would love to see it improve life for kidney patients.
“Imagine if regenerative kidneys became standard treatment. Going through a transplant is a huge thing for kidney patients, with the fear of rejection living in the back of their minds afterwards.
Research wish list
“To create a technology that prolongs the life of transplanted kidneys and to give those receiving them the peace of mind to go on with their lives would be a huge leap forward. Furthermore, it would reduce the burden of waiting for a potential match or maybe never receiving a kidney.
“Also, we need better treatments to make life comfortable for kidney patients.
“Dialysis can be a debilitating and terrible experience, so I’d love to see anything to make that better.
“Additionally, more research around diabetes and high blood pressure as a cause of kidney disease. Most of all, wouldn’t prevention be amazing?”
So, what does the future hold for Will, who cannot work as a doctor on the wards until the pandemic is well and truly over?
“For now, I’m enjoying the full-time research job alongside my part time masters degree. I’ll rethink when everything settles.”
Will enjoyed a renal placement in his fifth year of medical school so would he like to go into renal medicine as a career?
“Not sure. I sometimes feel it might be too close to home. But I will always be passionate to support the research for kidney patients.
“I ought to add, I don’t faint at the sight of blood anymore!”
- Follow Will on TikTok @dr_will6
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