The coronavirus pandemic has brought football all across Europe to an unprecedented holt, with England no exception to that.
And Norwich youngster Shae Hutchinson has felt the full force of this global health crisis more than most owing to his underlying health condition, which means he’s at increased risk of catching the deadly disease.
The 19-year-old has a hereditary condition called Alport Syndrome, which causes a progressive decline of the kidney’s function.
The disease, for which there is no cure, has also affected Shae’s hearing, eyesight and energy levels.
The Canaries Under-23 forward is in urgent need of a second kidney transplant. Hutchinson’s current kidney, donated by his father Gerald in 2018, is now working at just 17 per cent.
Hutchinson has already overcome more obstacles to last a lifetime but has no intention of giving up on his football dream anytime soon – being a quitter is not in his DNA.
The striker, who is currently self-isolating at his family home in London, remains upbeat and says he will continue to fight the disease with all he has as he plots a return to football – when it’s safe to do so.
“Football has always been the only thing I have ever thought about,” he told talkSPORT.
“Ever since I was little my mum would tell me that I needed to have a plan B [because of this illness] but I would always say ‘No, I am going to be a footballer’.
“Health comes before football, sometimes it’s tough but I know that. But I will not give up on my dream under any circumstances. I’ve been through this before and I will get through it again.”
In a cruel twist of fate, Hutchinson is not the only person in his family who requires a new kidney, with his mother Sarah also affected.
They say there’s nothing like a mother’s love and Sarah has certainly epitomised the meaning of that with a selfless act.
Sarah’s brother is willing to donate one of his kidneys to her, which has come back a match, but she has turned this offer down.
Instead, they plan to work with the NHS to offer it to another living donor in exchange for a match for Shae.
This comes under the Living Kidney Sharing Scheme, which is designed to increase the number of people who can receive transplants from living kidney donors and the opportunities to patients who wait a long time for a transplant.
Hutchinson admits he ‘hid’ his condition from club officials initially as he thought it would be detrimental to his career.
“I originally hid my condition from the staff here because I thought it would have an effect on my career and what the coaches thought I’d be able to do, but they’ve all been really understanding,” he explained.
“I do have a slightly different routine to my teammates, but otherwise I do mostly the same.
“Occasionally I have one day’s less training a week if I need it. It can obviously get more tiring for me as a result of my condition.
“I also have regular meetings with my coaches to make sure everything is okay, but I always give my absolute all every time I step out on the pitch.”
Hutchinson, whose current deal runs out at Carrow Road runs out at the end of the season, says Norwich have been incredibly supportive of him throughout his time at the club.
“Norwich have been incredible, everyone from the coaches to the players,” he added. “I am lucky that I am at such a great club.
“They have been amazing with the way they have supported me.
“My teammates have been great and are incredibly understanding. They’re fully aware that I can sometimes have fatigue or have spells of the game where I will get tired, but I always work as hard as I possibly can.
“The coaches here are the same, they know I will push myself to the absolute limit. I am getting better everyday and keep in constant dialogue with them about everything.”
When it comes to Hutchinson’s footballing idols, there is one man who stands out from the rest as far as Shae is concerned – that being Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.
Hutchinson was in the Gunners academy as a 12-year-old, where he was coached by the legendary Premier League forward.
It therefore understandably meant an awful lot to him to receive a personalised video message from the Montreal Impact manager earlier this week, with the Frenchman labelling Hutchinson his ‘hero’ in the clip below.
So what is Hutchinson’s footballing dream, in light of everything else that is going on?
“My ultimate goal is to play for the first team at this football club. To play in the Premier League for this club would be a dream,” he explained.
“I just want to get over this and go again. I am so determined to play for Norwich, it’s always been my dream but this has just made me want it so much more.
“I want give that message to young people that you can overcome obstacles and be anything you want. Do not give up. Do not let get anything in the way of what you want and you can do it.”
If you are reading this and are struggling for inspiration during these difficult times, we hope Shae’s story has given you some food for thought.
After all it might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever.
Shae and his mum are working closely with leading blood cancer charity ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust). To find out how you can join the Organ Donor Register, visit www.aclt.org.