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ITV weather presenter and dad to celebrate kidney donation at Newcastle Bridges Walk

16 June 2024

ITV Tyne, Tees and Border weather presenter, Ross Hutchinson, 41, donated a kidney to his dad, Robin, 65, in November last year, after Robin’s kidneys failed. On Sunday 16 June, Ross and Robin will go out together for the first time since their operation to celebrate Father’s Day at Kidney Research UK’s Newcastle Bridges Walk.

Robin is travelling up for the walk from his hometown of Surbiton, in Surrey. He said: “It's a really great opportunity for us to spend some time together now we’re both well. It falls at a time that we can both make, and we want to show our support for further research into kidney problems.”

The pair have demanding schedules, with Ross’s work keeping the region updated on the forecast and Robin’s many responsibilities as director of a community interest organisation, a trustee of The Rose Theatre, Kingston and chair of a youth charity.

Son and father taking a selfie
Ross and Robin

Robin’s diagnosis

Two-and-a-half years ago, Robin began getting pain in his back and was feeling more tired than usual throughout the day. He thought nothing of it until his optician told him he had elevated blood pressure in his eyes.

After a blood test, he was called into hospital and quickly told that his kidney function was at just 3%. A catheter was inserted and over a litre a half of trapped excess urine was removed from Robin’s bladder.

Robin says: “I did hold onto the idea that my kidneys would burst back into life after being treated, but it became clear they wouldn’t. Dialysis is one method of keeping people with kidney failure alive, but when I was shown how this worked it was a shock because of how much it would have affected my life.

“I live with bipolar which has taught me a variety of ways to deal with things, and I accepted the situation I was in. I do feel so lucky though, that Ross’s donation meant I was able to avoid dialysis and being on a long waiting list for a transplant. It could’ve been so much worse.”

A kidney brought us back together

Following the divorce of his parents when he was 13, Ross spent much of his adult life apart from his dad. However, the pair were reunited when word spread amongst his siblings that Robin was in hospital and would need a kidney transplant.

Ross explained: “ I wasn't in regular contact with Dad growing up but there wasn’t any animosity. We’d just gone on separate paths. I had a really lovely childhood with him in a very creative and fun household

“When Dad first went into hospital, a family group chat was set up amongst us kids. The words kidney failure were mentioned, and I said, ‘if you need a kidney, you can have one of mine.’

“For me it was an easy, pragmatic decision to make but I’m aware that isn’t the case for everyone. I felt like the most suitable donor because I don’t drink much, I don’t smoke, I’m healthy and I don’t have children to worry about.”

For Robin, the support he received was overwhelming. He says: “I’ve got five children and two others offered to be donors as well, which was very sweet. It was astonishing how many friends came forward to offer their kidneys.

“I found the idea of Ross donating a kidney unsettling, as I would’ve felt for anybody but particularly my son. It put him into a vulnerable position, and it was only after having conversations together to put the risk of a transplant into perspective, that I felt comforted it would be okay. It was reassuring knowing about the longer-term care he would receive post-transplant which acts as a safety net.

“One of the strange and most beautiful things about what has happened is that by having the transplant we are talking again. That is something I value even more than receiving the kidney. It has meant I have my son again which is the most beautiful thing.”

Male in hospital doing a thumbs up
Ross in hospital

Live organ donation

Living kidney donation reduces the transplant waiting list, giving people their lives back without relying on receiving a kidney from a deceased donor. Most people only need one kidney to live a happy and healthy life, and this is something that has been true for Ross since donating to his dad.

Ross says: “Within about a week-and-a-half after the operation at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle I was feeling fine. I wasn’t doing cartwheels, but I was going to the allotment and walking the dog. So far everything has gone well.”

For Robin, the transplant has given him a new lease of life. He says: “Transplants can sometimes go wrong, but actually they can go really well. How it goes for you will be your own journey, but don’t only listen to the bad because it could also be a miracle.

“When you’re going through it, it’s important to keep your spirit in a positive place as best you can. If your brain is also fighting your body, then it’s going to cause more problems. By keeping the humour, by keeping the smile, it made the darker times more palatable.

“I’ve had the most amazing pre-and post-transplant teams at both Kingston and St George’s hospitals, who have been great at explaining things to me and everything has been going well since the transplant.”

Older male lying in hospital bed during his stay for a kidney transplant
Robin in hospital for transplant

Sharing their story

Speaking publicly about the transplant wasn’t straightforward, Ross says: “I wanted to play it down and keep it private because it felt a bit self-indulgent to highlight something like this. However, it was explained to me how our story could resonate with people, and it quickly became apparent how many people wanted to share their own experiences.

“As somebody people do see on TV, I wanted to show that you can come out of the other side as a live organ donor without being weakened by it, and the response to sharing my story on air has been amazing.

“It’s nice because people just chat to me in the supermarket about kidneys and their experiences. So many people have stories about organ donation, whether similar to ours or about loved ones who have died. It has bonded a lot of people.

Joining the Newcastle Bridges Walk

“I’m looking forward to meeting even more people at the Newcastle Bridges Walk for Kidney Research UK. Not everyone will have had such a positive experience of treatment, and hopefully we can support in raising awareness and money to help future patients and their families.”

“It’s important to say that if you know somebody who is facing kidney failure, you should only offer to donate if it is really for you – and you’ll know if it is. There are many ways to support someone who is facing an illness, both emotionally and practically, and organ donation is just one on a long list.”

Whatever the weather, join the Newcastle Bridges Walk.

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