Andy Cole opens up on battling kidney failure

‘My kidney basically packed up on me – I thought it was jetlag’: Manchester United legend Andy Cole opens up on battling kidney failure, from the shock of the diagnosis, fearing for his kids and how overwhelmed he was when his nephew donated an organ to him

  • Andy Cole has opened up on his battle and recovery from kidney failure 
  • The Manchester United legend was diagnosed with the condition in 2015 
  • Cole’s nephew, Alexander, saved his life by donating one of his kidney 

Manchester United legend Andy Cole has described the shock and fear he felt after being diagnosed with kidney failure in 2015.

Cole became ill after contracting Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis during an ambassadorial visit to Vietnam and was quickly rushed to hospital upon his return.

The former striker told how his kidneys ‘packed up’ on him and how his prior fitness levels stopped his body from shutting down.

Manchester United legend Andy Cole has opened up on his battle with kidney failure

The former striker spoke about the shock of the diagnosis and fearing for his children

‘When I felt ill, I was like, “What’s going on here?”. I couldn’t understand what I was going through regarding my illness, it came totally out of the blue,’ Cole told the Official Manchester United podcast.

‘It really ravished the way I was thinking, it was difficult to comprehend. I remember walking into the hospital and 10-11 days later coming out a totally different man.

‘My kidney basically packed up on me. I was in Vietnam for the club, came back, got home and felt a little bit tired. I thought it was only jetlag, so I had a couple of paracetamols and went to bed. Tomorrow’s a new day. The day after, I started putting on weight and the weight was ‘rapido weight’. 

Cole contracted Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis on an ambassadorial trip to Vietnam

‘I was saying, “It’s nothing”. I remember my ex saying to me, “You’ve put on weight” and I was like, “Nah, nah that’s nonsense, absolute nonsense.” But the weight became more and more so I called [former club doctor] Doctor Stone, who came ’round, looked at me and said, “Ok, I’m going to get you to run some tests.” So I went, I think it was a Saturday. He called me first thing Monday morning and he had something going on in his voice. “You need to get to hospital, quickly, they’re waiting for you”. “Ok.”‘

Cole, who won nine trophies during his six-year spell at Old Trafford, said he didn’t have the energy to move and was constantly sleeping but remembers fearing for his children. 

‘In those days I didn’t have any time to think about myself. Before I got thinking I was like, “What about my kids?”. I remember the Doc consolidated me, “Don’t worry about your kids”. I was saying, “No, no, no, my kids, my kids, my kids”. When they settled me down in hospital and explained to me what it is… I might have been there three to four days before they actually told me what it is.

‘When I went down with all the symptoms, I blew out, I went up to about 18 stone, something like that but I couldn’t move. All I did was sleep, I couldn’t move, I was out constantly.

‘This was four days. I was on dialysis, straight away I was that bad. They tried to clean my blood out, get that going again. I was in a really bad way and if I didn’t go to the hospital that day that would’ve been it. They said my fitness levels were so high that from the time I walked in on Monday, by the time I collapsed that was it. That was how it would have ended. 

‘Before that, the three days I was at home and I was so fit. That was what kept me going. Collapsing in the hospital, that was my body saying I’m done. I collapsed in the right place basically.’ 

The forward won nine trophies during his six-year spell at Old Trafford between 1995 and 2001

The 48-year-old also spoke about the overwhelming moment when his nephew, Alexander, saved his life by donating him one of his kidneys.

‘Alexander, he came to see me one day when I was still living in Cheshire. I just woke up groggy from my medication and he said “I can’t do this anymore.” “What are you on about?”. “That’s it, I can’t see you like this.”

‘I couldn’t walk, I could just about get to the toilet, get back and I was so out of breath it was unbelievable. He said, “I’m gonna donate my kidney”. I remember saying, “No, no, no you’re far too young for this, this is a long-term project.”

‘He said, “I’m done, I can’t see you like this. I come, look at you, you’re sleeping, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. I can’t do it”.

‘I was getting really emotional and so was he. He wanted to give me his kidney, he donated his kidney for me.’

Cole has since set up the Andy Cole Fund with Kidney Research UK which aims to help others cope with the challenges of kidney disease and transplants. 

You can listen to the rest of the interview from Monday evening, by searching for UTD Podcast on any of your favourite podcast providers. You can find previous episodes, and exclusive video clips of them being recorded, on the official Manchester United app and website.

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