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  1. ITV Report

Andy Cole 'indebted' to his nephew after kidney transplant

  • Video report by ITV News political correspondent Libby Wiener

Former Manchester United legend Andy Cole has told ITV News how he is campaigning for a change in the law to organ donations after his nephew gave him his kidney. The 46-year-old's life was saved by the selfless sacrifice of his nephew Alexander Palmer, who donated the kidney after his own was left badly damaged by a rare condition he developed after contracting an airborne virus.

Andy Cole is now campaigning to change the law to an opt-out system where all citizens are potential organ donors unless they specifically say otherwise.

Proposals for a change in the law on organ donation in England to ensure people have to opt out of being donors passed a significant milestone in Parliament on Friday.

Ministers confirmed they would support a Private Member's Bill tabled by Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson to introduce presumed consent in England, following the move to an opt-out system in Wales.

After spending two years on dialysis, Cole's transplant surgery took place in April 2017 after his nephew was deemed to be a match.

The former England international said he was "very close" to not surviving and was in denial about needing a transplant for "a long time".

He said: "It took me a hell of a long time to actually accept it and for it to sink in I was in denial for a long time.

"I just tried to convince myself that it wasn't as bad as it was and typical man just saying man-up get on with it and you'll come through the other side but unfortunately it didn't work out that way."

The treble-winning striker said he was very fortunate with the number of people that offered to get tested to see if they could be a donor for him: "I was very, very lucky, when it came to my time you know I had so many people step-up straight away prepared to do it; my nephew, my cousin, my sister."

It was Cole's nephew who was the first to offer to get tested and told his uncle he wanted to help as he was "tired" of seeing him in such distress.

"He said look uncle I'm tired of seeing you looking like this and you know I can't see you living your life like this anymore so he was the first one to go for all the tests and he was a match. But I didn't think he understood at the time just how much pain he was going to be in," Cole said.

He added: "I'm indebted to him. He knows that, I know that. We was already close anyway but we've become a lot closer and he knows the job he's done for me."

The former England international said he was Credit: PA

Five years ago Cole said he would not have offered to be an organ donor but knowing it can change and save lives first-hand has changed his opinion.

"I'll be honest five, six years ago if you'd have said [donate] to me I'd have said no I don't see the point in it. Now I'm totally the opposite, I mean when my time comes you can have what you want. I would try and help as many people as possible when my time comes," he said.

Asked what he would say to people considering whether to become an organ donor or not, Cole said: "Why not because you know if you pass away or whatever maybe your organs could possibly keep two, three people alive.

"I mean that's how someone else has to look at it. It's not as if like you say 'well you pass away and my organs are going to go with me' because ultimately you no longer need them whereby someone could be on the waiting list for a year, two years or whatever may be, they could need that organ to keep them alive so I would do it all day long."

The number of people who have died while waiting for an organ transplant over the last decade is 4,712.

Cole hopes that if the law changes then many other lives can be saved through organ donation.

  • A guide to becoming an organ donor

Living Donation

People can choose to donate organs in the event of their death or - along with blood - people can donate their kidneys, liver, and tissue while they are alive.

Living donation requires major surgery, but potential donors are carefully assessed to determine their suitability and results have proved successful.

  • Kidneys - Around a third of all kidney transplants in the UK are donated by a living person as a healthy person can lead a normal life with one
  • Liver - Part of a liver from a living person can be donated because the liver can regenerate itself, although this is less common than living kidney donation
  • Tissue - those undergoing hip operations can donate part of their thigh bone, while amniotic membrane (part of the placenta) can be donated after caesarian section to be used in eye operations

To donate an organ email enquiries@nhsbt.nhs.uk or contact your local kidney or liver transplant centre

To donate tissue email tissue.donation@nhsbt.nhs.uk or contact the National Referral Centre on 0800 432 0559.

Deceased Donation

Giving organs and tissue after your death can help someone live or improve their health and quality of life.

You can choose to donate:

  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Pancreas
  • Small bowel
  • Corneas
  • Tissue

Click here if you want to join the NHS Organ Donor Register

The NHS "strongly suggests" people tell their family and friends whether or not they want to be an organ donor in the event of their death.

Visit the NHS Organ Donation website for more information.