Ladies midfielder backs Transplant Week

by Adam Capper

Kelly McDougall reveals family’s battle with illness while supporting national drive.

Sunderland Ladies midfielder Kelly McDougall has spoken out in support of National Transplant Week while revealing her own family’s battle with illness.

The former England international, 30, told how she was willing to give up her career in order to donate a kidney to her father Ian, before her mother was found to be a match.

“I had a long chat with my parents and the doctors; we did a bit of research and found out that it would have meant no more contact sports for me or anything like that, so I would have had to give up football,” said McDougall.

“It was something I was still more than willing to do but at that point my parents both turned round and told me it wasn’t something they really wanted me to do and that they felt I was too young to do it, especially with my football.

“As a result my Mum said she would test, knowing how unlikely it was, but she was a match and I’m so grateful to her, not only for what she’s doing for my Dad but that it will allow me to carry on playing. It’s been a difficult road but it’s the best gift you can give to someone.” 
McDougall, in her sixth season with the Lady Black Cats since joining from Everton, has appeared in all six of Sunderland’s FA WSL wins this season, scoring a vital last minute winner against Reading. 
The McDougall family first found out about Ian’s illness 18 months ago - by that point his kidney failure had reach an advanced stage and he was close to requiring either dialysis or a transplant.

“We didn’t find out until quite a late stage so his kidney function has decreased a lot. Really at the minute he should be on dialysis but he’s waiting for his transplant which is currently scheduled for the end of August,” said McDougall.

“My mum has gone through loads of tests and things to check that she was ok and to check the tissue match and the blood and that he body was in working order to sustain the operation. It’s quite a miracle really that they’re a match for each other, something very rare.” 
The operation was originally scheduled to take place at the end of June but due to a rare influx of organs available for transplant, the theatre was postponed. 
“My Dad was really positive about the postponement actually, although there was a little bit of frustration, he was just happy that people were donating their organs and that other people could be saved.”

McDougall revealed how she has been on a drive, along with her teammates, to help raise awareness of organ donation, and the simple process that a person can go through to become an organ donor.

“I’m not asking people to be live donors but there is a form you can fill in that takes a couple of minutes, meaning that if the worst does happen then you can still make a difference. You could save a life by giving the two minutes that it takes,” said the former Everton star.

“I would say that it’s not something you would know about until someone speaks to you about it, it certainly hadn’t crossed my mind. When it happens to someone close to you it puts a bit of perspective on things, and it’s a form that just takes a couple of minutes. You can even select what items you want to give and giving that one thing could make such a huge difference.”

National Transplant Week runs from 7-13 July and is an NHS initiative aimed at boosting the number of organ donors in the UK.

For more information or to become a donor, visit