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Manchester man makes epic cycle journey – despite living with one kidney

Meet Adam Cooney, a 42-year-old resident of Sale, whose life has been a testament to defying the odds and embracing every moment with unwavering courage.

A Manchester man whose life was saved after a kidney donation from his mother, was part of a special team greeting cyclists who stopped in the city on an epic 500-mile UK cycle ride, to raise vital awareness of Organ Donation Week.

Adam Cooney, from Sale, accepted a special baton from the Transplant Tour ride team, when the 15 cyclists stopped at Manchester Royal Infirmary, on their journey between Edinburgh and Oxford last week. It was to symbolise being the recipient of a transplant.

The 42-year-old was saved by his mum’s altruistic gift of a kidney and Adam says he’s now eternally grateful to her, after being able to get back to epic cycle rides and the outdoor sports which he enjoys.

In September 2022, Adam felt fit and well enough to do a bike ride from Vienna to Budapest, which helped raise more than £60,000 for charity. He still cycles to work every day if he can and hopefully will get to Costa Rica next year, to cycle, swim and hike across the country.

He talks about how his physical health was transformed after his kidney operation: “I was incredibly ill, with really severe cramps, horrible migraines, sickness.  I was very tired and my body just chronically ached.

“Coming round from that surgery, after having the new kidney was quite a weird sensation. I literally woke up and it was like BING! I noticed I had a lot more clarity and sharpness, to my thinking. There was a huge bag of water that had drained off my body. I lay in the hospital bed and thought – wow, I was really ill.”

Adam, who is a scientist at Manchester’s Christie Hospital, was fit and healthy until January 2015, when he started to get achy joints and developed a rash. He got a black blister on his foot and went to Wythenshawe Hospital.

After several weeks he was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein Purpura or HSP, a condition where the small blood vessels become inflamed. The condition can go on to cause chronic kidney disease.

“I was being monitored by the MRI and had regular check-ups, which found that my kidney function started declining.

“Over 3 years my kidneys slowly failed until I had a transplant in October 2018.

“I was fortunate because I had a condition which presented and then they monitored me. I knew it was coming. Whereas some people will go into hospital and be told quite abruptly, you need to go on dialysis now and have a transplant.”

Adam’s mum Anne Cooney, who is now in her sixties, persuaded her son to let her donate a kidney to him.

“She said what happens if you’re sat on a transplant waiting list, when you could be doing all the things you love outdoors and you could have one from me.

“In the end she made sense and won the argument. My mum’s kidney was a good match for a transplant. Everything in the operation went according to plan, but it doesn’t come without risks.

“I think it was an incredibly amazing thing for her to do, which I’m incredibly grateful for. It makes me tear up just thinking about it.”

Adam is now on immune suppressant medications for life, so that his body doesn’t reject his transplanted organ.

“I really admire my mum, she’s practised Tae Kwon Do for years and was told she needed to lose weight, to be in the best possible condition before she donated to me.  So she went on a diet and got an award for Slimmer of the Year.”

Adam accepted the baton in support of the charity Give a Kidney, which the Transplant Tour was in aid of.

The idea for the Edinburgh to Oxford ride came from donor Dennis Carver, who wanted to prove that living with one kidney need not prevent anyone leading a normal life post-donation and that he could cycle 500 miles. There were also three other kidney donors on the cycling team.

At the age of 73-years-old Dennis gave his kidney to an anonymous stranger, in August 2021. He was  inspired by someone he’d heard talking about it, in a radio interview.

He describes what drove his altruistic decision: “I donated more than sixty pints of blood before this and never knew where that was going. So I thought this was in some ways a bit similar.

“While you’re alive you can only donate a kidney once.  But if I could have done it again, I would have done.

“There’s less than 100 people every year that give a kidney to a stranger and there has still only been around 1,000 people who’ve ever done it.

“I had a very good recovery and it’s a hard thing to describe, but I was in a state of grace after I woke up from the operation and was told that it had been a success.

“I just felt wonderful – I don’t know anything that equates to it for me.”

A spokesperson for The Manchester Centre for Transplantation said: “The team echo their gratitude to the cyclists, for raising awareness of the selfless act of live donation and specifically altruistic donors, to improve the lives of recipients who may not otherwise receive this valuable gift.

“The team at Manchester Royal Infirmary witness the benefit that this offers and the truly transformational effect it has on patients and their loved ones.

“This team of cyclists embody the spirit the donors undertake in this process and we would like to pass on our thanks.”

You can find out more about Organ Donation Week here:

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