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“Joining Kidney Research UK’s Newcastle Bridges Walk after donating a kidney to my son”

11 June 2024

Brian Watt and his family are dedicated supporters of Kidney Research UK and the Newcastle Bridges Walk, having participated five times over the years to raise awareness and funds to help fight kidney disease. 

Hundreds of people will gather in Newcastle for this year’s event on Sunday 16 June, and Brian will be there again with his wife, Angela, sons, Dan and Joseph, Megan (Joseph’s partner), and two family friends.  

Brian says: “Kidney disease is something which people don’t speak about enough. It affects a huge number of people – including my family – but doesn’t always get the same acknowledgement as other health conditions.  

“The Newcastle Bridges Walk is something I really enjoy doing to draw attention to the disease and help fund further research to improve the lives of people who are affected.” 

Family of five all wearing purple Kidney Research UK t-shirts taking a selfie style picture
Brian and his family

Dan’s diagnosis

Brian and his family were already familiar with kidney disease before son, Dan, was diagnosed. Angela, Brian’s wife, has a family history of kidney problems spanning five generations, and worked as a dialysis nurse in Shetland and Newcastle for nearly two decades. She is also a kidney patient herself and knows that she will need dialysis treatment or a transplant in the future. 

Brian says: “It was Angela who first recognised that Dan had a urine infection as a baby. Once he had been seen by doctors, he was diagnosed with urinary reflux – which caused urine to flow back into his kidneys, causing serious damage. 

“By the time we found out, his kidneys were already scarred. We knew then it would be a case of waiting until his kidneys deteriorated, and a kidney transplant or dialysis became necessary. 

“One positive of receiving the diagnosis early on, was that we could prolong his kidney health through diet and medication. Initially it was thought he’d need a transplant in his early teens, but he kept going for another five years until he was eighteen last year. Thankfully he wasn’t impacted too badly growing up and we were able to encourage him to play sports and keep his fitness up, which helped.” 

Donating a kidney

Another advantage of discovering Dan’s kidney problems early on was that it allowed the family to plan ahead.  

Brian says: “I got myself checked when Dan was young and found out I would be a match for a kidney transplant. It was good knowing that at some point I’d be able to provide that for him. We wanted to arrange for the transplant to happen so he wouldn’t have to go onto dialysis, and that’s how it worked out. 

“We were able to schedule the operation for July 2023, at a time which was best for us. It was in between Dan finishing his A-levels and starting university, and fitted around my job, for which I often work abroad in Africa. 

“For years I was on tenterhooks hoping my kidneys would be okay when the time came. The build-up to the operation is scary, everything must be perfect, and there is always concern it won’t be successful. 

“Giving up a kidney wasn’t a problem for me at all and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but it was in the back of my mind that it could be rejected. That would have been devastating, but fortunately everything went well. Our doctors, nurses, and consultants in Newcastle, and across the UK, do a fantastic job. 

“Initially for me it was quite sore, and painful to use the toilet or lay in bed, but by the second week there was a lot less discomfort and after a month I wouldn’t even have known I’d had an operation if it wasn’t for a small scar. 

“For Dan, the kidney is functioning as it should and he’s living his life. He was always a cricketer, and he’s been able to start playing again this season after missing most of last year. It’s good to see him getting back into his sports again and getting back to normal.” 

One of the Bridges across The Tyne.
One of the Bridges across The Tyne.

Newcastle Bridges Walk

The walk on Sunday 16 June will be an opportunity for Brian, Dan, and their family to celebrate almost one year since their successful transplant.  

Angela, who is a trustee at Kidney Research UK, will be volunteering to support the smooth running of the event and welcome walkers along, while the rest of the family will set off for the route through Newcastle.  

Brian says: “It’s a lovely walk, especially when you get a nice view of the Tyne from the bridges. There is an option for a shorter route too for those who may find it more challenging, which is helpful. I really enjoy the event and it’s nice meeting different people and hearing their stories. 

“It’s important for us to raise awareness and money for research that will reduce people’s chances of getting kidney disease and help treat the condition. There are lots of different issues that can cause kidney problems, whether that’s genetic, as in our family, or something else. Hopefully supporting research will eliminate some of these things.” 

Join Brian, Dan, and their family at Newcastle Bridges Walk.

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