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I’m Not Scared of Death – Man United Legend Andy Cole Battling Kidney Disease

After six weeks in self-isolation, former England striker Andy Cole can feel the walls closing in.

A kidney transplant three years ago saved his life, but he now relies on drugs to suppress his immune system and stop it attacking his new organ.

It means his body is less likely to fight off coronavirus, making it vital to avoid infection.

Divorced and living alone since his marriage broke down after his transplant, his only human contact is phone calls from friends and family who leave food parcels on his doorstep in Manchester.

This will be Andy’s life for the foreseeable future.

Andy, 48, said: “I’m not scared of death. I nearly died before, so why would I fear it now? But I have to be sensible.

“I want to go out, have a laugh with my mates, and go for dinner. I don’t know when I will be able to do any of that again. It’s driving me insane.

“Being in lockdown, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on everything I’ve been through and you realise how difficult it’s been, especially when you’re dealing with it by yourself.

“I don’t like to rely on other people, but I’ve had to swallow my pride. My family and my mates have been amazing. Their help is priceless to me now.”

Andy, who won five Premier League titles and the Champions League at Manchester United, fell seriously ill after contracting a virus while touring Vietnam as a club ambassador in 2015.

Cole of Manchester United celebrates after scoring against Chelsea in the FA Cup.

Despite exhaustion and swelling over his face and body, he refused to admit he was ill until a doctor found his kidney was functioning at just 7%. For two years he had gruelling dialysis every other day, until his nephew Alexander Palmer, 31, donated a kidney in April 2017.

The operation was not a cure, and he knows he will be taking medication for life.

Andy’s new kidney might last 10 years or more – or “it could fail tomorrow”. If that happens, he will have to resume dialysis and hope another suitable donor can be found.

In the meantime, the disease continues to take a terrible toll and there are days when he can barely climb out of bed.

He says: “When I wake up, I know straight away if that day is a write-off. I have no strength, my legs feel hollow. It was like that last week. Tuesday was fine, but on Wednesday I couldn’t move.”

Things got so bad that Andy suffered depression and suicidal thoughts. He “hit rock bottom” as his marriage to Shirley, with whom he has son Devante and daughter Faith, broke down.

Andy says: “My advice to anyone in this position is to be compassionate to those around you. You’re going through all this, but others are suffering too.

“There have been times when some unbelievable people have dragged me off the floor.”

Cole has opened up on hitting “rock bottom” when his marriage to Shirley broke down.

That is why he is launching the Andy Cole Fund aiming to raise Sh67 million in three years to fund research to improve kidney transplants and patient wellbeing.

Andy says: “I was fortunate enough to go to the Transplant Games last year. I watched the guys playing football. I was crying, they were crying too. We were all going through exactly the same thing.

“I don’t want anyone to end up struggling like I did. In some ways, I’ve spent a lot longer than six weeks in isolation.”

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