‘I was scared to tell anybody’ - City striker opens up about hunt for new kidney
- Credit: Sarah Hutchinson/Paul Chesterton
A young Norwich City player has spoken candidly of how fears for his aspiring career initially led him to hide a hereditary medical condition from his coaches and the club.
Shae Hutchinson is 19 years old and is in the unique position of having a professional contract at the Canaries and a place on a kidney transplant list due to a condition called Alport Syndrome.
The under-23s striker, who joined City from Arsenal at the age of 16, has been on the recovery trail after his father Gerald Akpokotor donated him a kidney in October 2018, however, the procedure has not paid off and he is in need of another organ.
Now, as the forward launches a hunt for a fresh donor, he has opened up about how it affects his life both on the field and off it - and how worries over his career led to him originally hiding the condition from all but those closest to him.
He said: "Since I was just six years old all I have ever wanted to do was be a professional footballer - it is still all I want. When I found out about my condition I was scared to tell anybody because I just didn't know how it would affect my football.
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"I was scared that I would stop being treated the same as other players - that the coaches would pick me or would give me less game time. Football is all I ever think about."
Hutchinson found out about his condition when he was around 16 years old, but says it never altered his ambitions or goals.
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He said: "The first thing I thought about was how it would affect my football career. However, I have never even considered doing anything else - I have always been absolutely determined to be a professional footballer.
"My mother always tells me I should have a plan b and think about what I would do if football didn't work out, but I just can't do that. I always say no, it's football or nothing."
The transplant from his father means that Hutchinson now has three kidneys, however, even with the transplant they only work at 17pc capacity.
As a result, the Hutchinson tires far easier than many of his teammates and it also affects his vision and hearing, resulting in him having to wear contact lenses and a hearing aid.
He said: "I do have to have a slightly different routine to my teammates, but otherwise I am just like any other footballer. I can sometimes fatigue or have to have spells of the game where I will get tired - but I always work as hard as I possibly can.
"My teammates are all incredibly understanding and supportive of me, as are the club and my coaches. Every day is different and there are some days where I will be a lot more tired than others, but I've grown used to talking about it more and telling the coaches and they are very understanding.
"It's for that reason that I know I am at a great club and my goal at the minute is to break into the first time here and play for Norwich City."
The teenager had to take a considerable amount of time off after his surgery, however, after rebuilding his fitness he has become a stand-out performer for the club's under 23s, scoring four goals in nine appearances in Premier League Two. He was also nominated for the league's Player of the Month award in January.
He added: "My message to any other young people would be to always follow your dreams and do not give up or let anything get in the way of what you want to do with your life."
Alport syndrome is described by the NHS as a genetic condition characterized by kidney disease, hearing loss, and eye abnormalities, causing progressive loss of kidney function.
- For more information about Alport Syndrome and how to donate, go to www.aclt.org'He can go as far as he wants'
"It's up to Shae - he can go as far as he wants to if he puts the work in."
This is the assessment of City under-23s coach David Wright, the man currently tasked with looking after his development as a player.
"To go through what he is going through and continue working hard and performing at the level he is is a real testament to the kind lad he is," said Wright.
"He was quite secretive about it all to begin with - I think he was perhaps worried about how he would react but we could see he was struggling. We spoke to him and one day it all came out.
"At Norwich City, we look at our players as people so are keen to support him through this time. We care about making our players great people and if they end up becoming excellent footballers too, then brilliant."