Belfast Telegraph

BBC's Stephen Watson thanks anonymous kidney donor who 'gave him second chance'

Stephen Watson with surgeon Tim Brown following his transplant
Stephen Watson with surgeon Tim Brown following his transplant
Stephen Watson
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Popular television presenter Stephen Watson has said he's delighted to have been "given another chance" following a successful kidney transplant.

The BBC NI broadcaster took to social media yesterday to thank his donor and the team at Belfast City Hospital after the operation, which came nearly three decades after his father Cecil donated a kidney for his son's first transplant operation.

"Delighted to say I've had a successful kidney transplant!" he tweeted.

"Thanks to the wonderful & selfless anonymous donor who's given me another chance, and to the world class transplant team in BCH for giving me the opportunity to write this post.

"I'm feeling great - back on BBC soon!"

The 47-year-old broadcast journalist also revealed that one of the nurses who cared for him had taken care of him for his first procedure almost 30 years ago.

He said: "Also thanks to surgeon Tim Brown, all on level 11, the entire nephrology, theatre, dialysis and interventional radiology teams, plus the fantastic nurses and healthcare staff who looked after me 24/7.

"Siobhan Reilly nursed me 30 years ago for my first transplant and again this time!"

Hundreds of people, including many BBC colleagues, wished him well following his surgery.

Stephen Nolan tweeted: "I admire you Stephen. Your dedication to your job throughout your illness is incredible.

"You are unstoppable. We look forward to you coming back to the BBC soon."

Weather presenter Angie Phillips said: "Fabulous news Stephen! Blessings to the donor and their family too. Wishing you a speedy recovery! Ax"

All-Ireland winning former Derry footballer and GAA pundit Joe Brolly, who gave a kidney to PR man Shane Finnegan in 2012 after hearing he had been waiting six years for a transplant said: "Terrific news Stephen. The miracle man is at it again."

Stephen revealed his need for a new kidney and that he was on dialysis four times a week back in February.

He discovered he needed to replace the kidney his dad gave him in a lifesaving transplant operation while making the TV programme Life On the List last year, about the pioneering work undertaken at Belfast City Hospital's renal unit.

"My first transplant has lasted nearly 30 years and I always knew that it would need replaced.

"I was aware that this day would end up coming... but it has probably come sooner than I thought it was going to," he said at the time.

Stephen was very moved after learning his story - which he had to be persuaded to tell - had helped "raise an incredible amount of awareness" for kidney donation.

Over 85 people offered to be a donor after the programme in one week. Usually around four or five people make an altruistic offer to donate.

He received thousands of messages via social media, email and post after the programme.

"It's nice to be able to give something back to the people who have helped me - and continue to help me," he said.

Until he found a donor, the sports reporter continued to check in to the hospital regularly for exhausting dialysis sessions.

Despite being unable to "go two days without having dialysis", he steadfastly refused to let it get in the way of work.

Following his first transplant, Stephen led "a completely normal life" until recently.

"I never took the transplant for granted and I always looked after it, but I ate what I wanted and drank what I wanted and played sport," he said. That's the thing about kidney transplantation, it gives you your life back the way it was before.

"Northern Ireland people have a very generous and altruistic nature. We're the donor capital of the world here. To donate to a stranger is a remarkable thing. And it's happening regularly in Northern Ireland."

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