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March 2020: Shae Hutchinson – the young Norwich striker looking for a kidney donor

“Hello Shae, this is Thierry. I just wanted to let you know that you’re my hero. It is just unbelievable to see what you’re going through right now.”

This week, France and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry sent a personal message to Norwich academy striker Shae Hutchinson, who is in self-isolation waiting for a second kidney transplant at the age of 20.

Henry, who coached Hutchinson at Arsenal’s academy, said: “Not only to deal with it one time, you came back, you played. Now you have to deal with it a second time. All my thoughts are with you, my prayers.

“You just have to hang on. Stay strong. Hopefully I’ll see you soon.”

Hutchinson suffers from Alport Syndrome, a genetic condition diagnosed at eight years old which affects his kidney function, eyesight, hearing and results in bouts of fatigue. He is following a tailored fitness programme and his condition means he is at higher risk of complications from coronavirus.

In 2018, Hutchinson underwent his first kidney transplant – donated from his father – and he missed most of the 2018-19 season.

However, the new organ is now only operating at 17%. Hutchinson’s mother also suffers from the condition and is searching for a donor too. She has been on the waiting list since early 2019.

“I was meant to find out this month if I had a donor, but it’s been postponed,” Hutchinson told BBC Sport. “I don’t know when I’m going to find a match.

“The second transplant will be quicker [to recover from]. The first one, I was in hospital for a week – it took me about four to six months to get back to football. The second one, I know what I’m doing so I will get back quicker.

“I need a transplant as soon as possible. When it drops down to 15% [functionality] that’s when you really need one. A few months back I was quite ill and that’s when it dropped below 15% and that’s when the NHS said I needed one.”

Hutchinson says he is trying to raise awareness about the lack of black people on the organ donor list.

“I’m trying to get them to come forward and put themselves on the organ register. So it would be easier for black people to get a transplant,” he said.

“There’s been lots of calls coming in. A lot of people have been calling up saying that they want to do tests and see if they are a match for me. It’s going all right so far.”

Through all of his health struggles, Hutchinson has stayed focused and determined to play in the Premier League, with his coaches comparing his direct playing style to Leicester striker Jamie Vardy.

Hutchinson believes had been playing the best football of his career this season, scoring in the EFL Trophy against Oxford in September and being nominated for player of the month in Premier League 2 in January.

“It is very frustrating but I’m just strong mentally and I just want to play football so I’m trying my hardest to get back into it,” he said.

“It would be a dream come true playing for the first team, I would love it. Football has been my whole life. I’m really proud of what I’ve done.

“My message to others is chase your dreams, don’t give up, don’t let anything get in the way. If you want it, go get it.”

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