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Football dreams realigned after kidney diagnosis

06 January 2023

Ever since he was a small boy, Dan Hogben, 19, had dreamed of being a footballer. As a 16-year-old, he was part of the Hull City youth squad and was on the verge of being offered a two-year scholarship there. 

Then, devastatingly, he was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, with his kidney function at around 13 per cent, and had to give up his dreams.  

Now, however, after having a transplant, he is getting back to full fitness and planning to pursue a future in football as a referee.

Dan Hogben playing football
Dan playing football

He says, “I’d been playing football since I was about six or seven, then at 11 I got into Hull City. But at 16 I was diagnosed with kidney disease. I’d had a few viruses and had gone for a blood test, and they discovered my kidney function was around 13 per cent.”

“I don’t think the full implications of leaving hit me straight away as my focus switched from the pressure of the academy environment to understanding my diagnosis and what this meant for me. It wasn’t until a year or two after leaving Hull that I realised just how much I was missing it.”

Luckily, he says, the academy had always encouraged boys to have a “Plan B” in case they didn’t make it so he continued at school and embarked on an A Level course.

Fate intervened

He was supposed to take his exams in June this year, but fate intervened: having been added to the living donor sharing scheme in January this year he got the call that he’d been matched and surgery was planned for May.

Dan says, “I was extremely lucky that I didn’t have to go on dialysis as the changes to my diet and medication kept me feeling ok. The plan was to leave it as long as possible to give me a transplant because the kidney only lasts a certain amount of time.”

“I was in the  living donor sharing scheme with my mother Alison, 51, as donor. She was actually a match for me but because my doctors couldn’t find out what caused my kidney disease they felt it would be less risky if we joined the shared scheme.”

He adds, “The operation was more painful than I expected because I had a big bleed afterwards. But I was out of hospital after five days and Mum came out after two. But I think she was hurting for a bit longer than me in the end. Now, I feel perfectly back to normal.”

After two years of uncertainty, Dan could get his life back on track. He’s decided not to sit his A levels, but has started a course in project management and design construction, which he is enjoying. 

Additionally, he’s training to be a referee. He explains, “I was back at Hull City Academy about two weeks ago doing an FA course learning about how to be a referee. I did an hour’s training session with them as part of it as well, and that was my first time back playing football.” 

“Because of my connection with them, Hull City have said I can start refereeing some of the younger teams and my plan is to work up the scale as quickly as possible.” 

Dan Hogben and mum
Dan Hogben and his mum

Dan says it was emotional to go back. “I also feel it when I go to watch professional games, wishing I was out there on the pitch. But mainly I was just pleased to be back out on the pitch. I haven’t quite got my full running fitness back, but I’m going to the gym to sort that. If I compare myself to how I was before the transplant, I’m a lot more energetic. I was so pale before.”

Taking inspiration from others

Having been inspired by people like footballer Andy Cole, who has also had a kidney transplant, Dan is determined to show other young transplant patients that you can still be involved in a sport at  a high level. “I’d like to create hope for people who are in a similar situation to me, sporting-wise,” he says.

“Looking back, I would do anything to still be playing for Hull City but I’ve learned that I’m the type of person to look forward. I understand I can only change my future, not my past.”

Dan is keen as well to raise money to support Kidney Research UK’s vital work. He says, “I want to raise money for research into finding the cause of different diseases. I still don't know why I got it.“

“Then you see how successful kidney transplants have been and how in such a short period of time, things have improved. This condition is going to be with me all my life, so I know how important research is to improve treatments”

“But mostly I want to create positivity for other people who’ve recently been diagnosed and are just at the start of their journey of having kidney disease. When I first found out, all the positives in my life suddenly stopped. At that stage the future is uncertain and you can’t imagine getting your life back to what it was.”

“I was lucky in that the demands and pressures of being in the academy gave me the mental strength to be as positive as I am and have always been. That’s why I feel I can try pass on that positivity to people who are struggling mentally going with their kidney disease diagnosis.

“It can feel negative at the beginning, but I want to show them that transplants make a huge difference to your life and you will adapt and find other ways of living life to the full.”

Read more about people living with kidney disease

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