Ex-Manchester United striker Andy Cole on six weeks of coronavirus isolation due to kidney transplant

Andy Cole's life changed after a visit to Vietnam in 2015 while on duty as an Ambassador for Manchester United.

When he returned he fell seriously ill, his kidneys failed and he urgently needed a transplant.

He was lucky.

His nephew was his donor in 2017, but a long, hard journey was just beginning.

While he feels so fortunate to have been given kidney, he has battled both physically and mentally since.

He has had dark days, when he has really struggled with his mind he says, and, having continued to keep fit after his football career, accepting that his body is not what it was, and that sometimes he feels so weak he simply can’t get out of bed.

Barnsley's David Watson fails to stop Andy Cole scoring his third goal (Manchester United's fourth) against Barnsley at Old Trafford in 1997. Credit: PA

People assume he says, that once the transplant has taken place, normal life can resume.

But it hasn't worked out that way for him.

He has found the mental battle harder than the physical one.

Like other kidney transplant patients he is amongst the most vulnerable during this pandemic, and for the past six weeks he has been in isolation at home.

I met Andy through a kidney connection - my husband had a kidney transplant a year after him and it has been incredibly helpful comparing notes.

But now Andy is hoping to share his experience with many others, in the hope that he can help highlight the impact of kidney failure particularly on the mind.

He is launching the Andy Cole Fund, to further research into kidney health, looking at the effects on mental wellbeing.

Alex Ferguson signed on Andy Cole for six million pounds from Newcastle United in 1995. Credit: PA

He is honest about how hard it's been for him during the past three years, conflicted by his feelings of gratitude that he is amongst the lucky ones to have had a transplant, and feelings of depression afterwards.

As a sportsman he was used to using his mental strength on the pitch, he says, and he is doing everything he can to harness it now, as he navigates the good days and the bad days that have accompanied the aftermath of kidney failure.

During his legendary spells with Newcastle United and of course Manchester United, he often made a huge impact during the games.

He’s hoping now to have another kind of impact, to help fund better treatment of kidney failure, and increase knowledge of what causes it.

"If I can help an anybody else” he says, then I’ll do just that".

To read more about the interview see below:

Not only is Cole having to endure the isolation of lockdown, but he explained to ITV News some of the physical effects of a transplant he is having to battle.

The former striker said that in the past week he has had two days when his "body didn't do what I wanted it to do, didn't want to respond, I couldn't get out of bed to be honest".

He continued: "I know how difficult it is just to get through each day so when this pandemic started and we all got our letters through for whatever, I knew it was going to be a tough battle, I knew mentally and physically it was going to be tough battle but it is something that we have to prepare ourselves for."

The player renown for scoring legendary goals against Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur in the 1998/99 season also told ITV News how he has spent this time reflecting upon his football career.

Cole, who was part of the prolific strike force which contributed to Manchester United's treble-winning streak in 1998, said: "I had this conversation a couple of weeks ago with Dwight [Yorke] and I said 'this has been the only time I've actually sat down and reflected about my career' and it's made me realise, you know, actually what I have achieved."

He told ITV News' Arts Editor Nina Nannar: "No, not on a personal level, but on a team level.

"You know the people I've been around it's made me really appreciate that, you know, tomorrow's not a given."

United striker Andy Cole (centre) is congratulated by teammates David Beckham and Brian McClair after scoring the opening goal at Old Trafford in 1998. Credit: PA

When asked about life going back to normal after having a kidney transplant he said: "Transplant is not a cure, before I had this, I thought 'ah man this is going to the cure, it's going to be fantastic'.

"It is fantastic because it gives you a certain standard of living, not the standard of living that you're used to like, you know when you're fit, healthy and strong but it gives you the opportunity to do things that you would have done at a certain level."

"I find it really frustrating due to the fact that I can't do things the way I want to do them. "

The footballing star also revealed that he kept his transplant to himself at first even away from his family as a way to cope with it.

"The crazy thing is I didn't even want my family or my mates to know at the time, there's a bit of embarrassment and I think 'I can't tell anyone', but when I did explain it to them, a lot of them really understood it for what it really was but I don't think they understood just how bad it was gonna be in terms of like going through the transplant, mentally how tough it is, physically how tough it is," he said.

Mr Cole said he tries to remain positive despite the coronavirus restrictions that are in place to limit the spread of the virus and feels fortunate to have his support network around him during this difficult time.

"Every morning is exactly the same thing.

"I have no one to talk to around me or whatever."

"My mates have been unbelievable with food and not dropping my food off so I can cook and all those kinds of things.

"My sister, my nephew, I mean that's been brilliant."

Cole continued: "But ultimately I do miss the day to day stuff or catching up with people and having a chat and having a laugh.

"I think that's what's really, really, it's not above me now to know that I can't go out and pop around somewhere else, sit there but have a laugh, whatever.

"Maybe that's the toughest thing now after six weeks that's really started playing with me," he added.

When asked what's the first thing he will do when they lift this lockdown, Cole said: "Oh man. I want to see my kids. Yeah. I want to see my kids love, have not seen my kids for some time."

"I definitely want to see my kids. It's their birthday coming up next month," he added.

You can support Andy Cole's fund at www.andycolefund.org

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