Kevin McDonald once scared for his life but grateful for a second chance – after scoring his first goal since a kidney transplant.
The midfielder took Saturday’s second win over Exeter as they beat Cambridge 2-0 to complete his comeback.
Old Scotland International received a kidney in May 2021 from his brother Fraser, who has been playing with kidney disease since the age of 18.
Before any comeback, it required months of long recovery in the family bubble of isolation during the Covid pandemic, and McDonald knows where it’s coming from.
“You’re always worried about your life because if something goes wrong you can’t wake up again,” she said.
“I didn’t dwell on the facts, but you’re worried about your life because anything can happen, it’s a very complex operation. I’ve seen one on TV before and I’m sitting there thinking ‘f*** me’. Intense stuff.
“I can’t imagine what my parents were thinking because my brother was also entering. And I was thinking ‘what if I go out and become a different character, a different person, not enjoying myself or not feeling the same way’.
“But the hardest time was saying goodbye to my wife (Lucy) before she dropped me off at the hospital. It was an emotional time.”
His first goal for Fulham against Cambridge in April 2018 at Millwall came just eight days after the birth of his daughter Darcy. McDonald’s joined Layla, who was born just two months after her transplant.
The 34-year-old actress had been playing with IgA nephropathy, a kidney disease, since she was 18, but her condition got so bad that it left her with only a 10 percent working kidney.
This meant a transplant or dialysis, and his body initially began rejecting his brother’s kidney at Guy’s Hospital, before he was allowed to go home after 18 days.
Fast forward to the start of last year and McDonald joined Dundee United, making 11 appearances before moving to Exeter until the end of the season in January.
With Saturday’s goal in four games, a twisting effort into the bottom corner sealed the victory, and the former Wolves star is determined to enjoy his football with the 12th Greeks in League One.
“I was mentally strong throughout the whole process. “I’m very proud of myself and it’s probably a testament to my own character that I want to get through this and keep playing,” said McDonald, who was promoted to the Premier League twice in five years at Fulham before leaving in 2021.
“I’ve always been a pretty relaxed character and never took a lot of things lightly. I have never put too much pressure on myself in all aspects of life.
“I’m probably more relaxed now. Little things, like bugs in games, just happen. It will happen to the best players in the world, it will happen to everyone.
“There’s no point dwelling on mistakes, especially in football, there’s no point dwelling on things you can’t change.
“I didn’t realize my last goal was so long ago. It’s always nice to score goals, I’m not so blessed.
“In terms of life, you are grateful to be here, grateful to have a great brother, friends and family. I have two daughters, one of whom was born last month. I am grateful for everything in life.
“As time goes by, a transplant, a few kids, life changes and you should enjoy it. Enjoy everything while you can.”