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My BMI was too high for a transplant, so I took up running.

12 February 2024

In 2018, Andy Jones was told by a nephrologist that his kidney function had declined to the point where dialysis or a transplant would be needed imminently. He was dealt a further blow when he was told that his weight would prevent him from being added to the waiting list for a transplant.  

He says: “I was in immediate panic mode. All I heard from that appointment was dialysis, transplant, and you’re too fat. I was completely wallowing in self-pity and just shut down. I was the best part of 16 and a half stone. Something needed to change.” 

I buried my head in the sand 

Although the news hit Andy hard, he had known his kidney function would decline one day. At just four years old, his family were informed that Andy had been born with ‘scarred kidneys’. He had been taking medication for most of his life, with regular GP appointments and annual blood tests. 

He says: “Even though I knew about the kidney problems, I had my head buried in the sand. I didn’t want to go and see the doctor because it’s so doom and gloom. I lived as a typical male, thinking I was untouchable.” 

Andy taking a selfie smiling for the camera.
Andy Jones

My solution was running

Facing the imminent prospect of dialysis, Andy knew he needed to make lifestyle changes to slow his decline for as long as possible and get himself healthy enough to receive a transplant. 

He says: “My solution was exercise and running. I then started to eat a bit better, go to bed a bit earlier, and it all just fell into place. Once I had the will to do it, I set myself little targets and stuck to them. I lost the best part of four stone and was just under 12 and a half stone at my lowest weight.” 

In June 2019, despite nearing end stage kidney disease, Andy completed the Chester half marathon, raising more than £2,000 for our work at Kidney Research UK. It was an amazing achievement and his healthier lifestyle helped to prolong his kidney function until October 2021, when dialysis became necessary. By this time, Andy had lost enough weight to be eligible for a transplant. 

Andy needed automated peritoneal dialysis (APD) for just over a year, but in November 2022 he finally received the transplant he’d been striving for. After a rollercoaster of being called three times for transplants which did not go ahead, Andy received his new kidney via the NHS paired donation scheme (PPD). Andy’s wife was not a direct match, and so they found a compatible transplant for Andy as part of the scheme in which she also donated her kidney to someone she hadn’t met. 

Andy in a hospital bed and his wife next to him
Andy and his wife in hospital for transplant operations.

You’ve got to be realistic

For Andy, sharing his experiences has helped him process his journey with kidney disease, and he hopes telling his story can offer inspiration and hope for others. 

Andy says: “I’ve seen people go through what I’ve gone through but not get out the other side. From a patient point of view, it is really tough. You need to be as positive as you can. I’ve had my bad days, but I’m four years on after getting told I was too fat and I needed a transplant, still sat here telling the story, so it’s doable. I was lost in 2018. I’ve been there, I’ve done it, I’ve been through it, and I know other people can achieve it.” 

When asked what his main piece of advice would be for others looking to lose weight, Andy says: “The key thing I found was not to beat myself up if I had an off day with my diet or exercise. I’d just wake up in the morning and try again. You’ve got to be realistic with yourself. I made little changes like double boiling potatoes to get rid of starch and putting almond milk in my tea instead of sugar, rather than trying to make the perfect meal every night. That mentality put me in great stead.”  

“I’ve been told I’m annoyingly positive by people, but that positive mental attitude along with the running helped me carry on and prolong the life of my kidneys.” 

Two males and one female waring green tshirts at a running event
Andy at a running event

I want to keep this kidney as healthy as possible

While on dialysis and immediately post-transplant, Andy had to slow down with his exercise and running regime because it became too tiring on his body. Now, over a year later, he has set himself new goals to achieve in 2024. 

Andy says: “I’m feeling great now, trying again to get fit and lose some weight. I want to try and keep this kidney as healthy as possible for as long as possible.” 

“I love Parkrun, I’m a massive advocate. I’ve got into all these Parkrun challenges, so I’m touring the northwest trying to run in a location beginning with every letter of the alphabet. I went to Holland in October to complete the letter Z! I’m planning to do 57 this year including three abroad. Come rain or shine I’ll be out running.” 

Andy has even signed up for this year’s Great North Run in support of our work at Kidney Research UK. We are so grateful and wish him all the best with the challenges ahead. 

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