Belfast Telegraph

Life-saving kidney transplant 'best Christmas present', says emotional Stephen Watson

Stephen Watson presented the award to Jonathan Rea
Stephen Watson presented the award to Jonathan Rea

BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter Stephen Watson has revealed that he is battling back to full fitness after receiving a kidney transplant earlier this month.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his surgery, he said the transplant was the "best Christmas present" he could ask for. 

The broadcast journalist told BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra that he had been "completely and utterly overwhelmed" by the support and well wishes he had received.

Stephen (47) popped back into the BBC to visit colleagues before Christmas. He revealed that he will be returning full-time to the airwaves and television screens in February after taking January off.

On his return he presented World Superbikes Champion Jonathan Rea with the BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of the Year Award.

Stephen thanked the living anonymous donor who gave up one of his kidney's, calling it the "best Christmas present you could ever imagine having".

"It's given me the gift of life. You think back six-eight weeks ago I was having dialysis four times a week, five hours at a time. I don't have to have that anymore," he said.

"Once I get over the tiredness level I'll be back operating at full pace and leading a very, very normal life."

He received his first kidney transplant from his father Cecil 30 years ago.

Stephen revealed that he was "not very compatible" for a second transplant.

"I was a very low percentage for a match of a transplant, but I kept the faith, I stayed positive and I got my transplant from an anonymous donor who I will never, ever be able to thank enough."

He explained how quickly the transplant had changed his life.

"I got out of hospital three weeks ago and I'd like to think I'm looking pretty healthy and a really good advertisement for how transplantation can change your life in a very short space of time," Stephen said.

"The day after I had my kidney transplant I felt completely and utterly different. I just felt healthy, I was up walking around."

Stephen paid tribute to the work of the medical team who made his surgery possible.

"Thanks to the incredible work at the Belfast City Hospital, and I don't underestimate this, they are world leaders in transplantation, it is a remarkable success story for Northern Ireland," he said.

Stephen Watson
Stephen Watson

"They do more live transplants than anywhere else in the world. In days gone by someone had to die for someone else to receive a transplant, but in the last ten years, thanks to the work of surgeon Tim Brown and Dr Aisling Courtney they have completely revolutionised the transplant system."

Stephen said that the hospital had grown from doing around 30 transplants per year to upwards of 120.

He said that he wanted to share his story to create awareness about the living donor transplant scheme.

"There are people walking on off the street saying 'I want to donate a kidney to a stranger' and certainly I believe it's the greatest gift you could ever offer," the popular presenter said. 

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