Patrons & Sporting Patrons

Nicholas Evans

Nicholas Evans (Patron)

Nicholas was born and grew up in Worcestershire. He studied law at Oxford University then worked on the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1975 he moved into television, initially producing current affairs documentaries for Weekend World, before moving to The South Bank Show, where he made films about famous writers, painters and film-makers, including the great British director David Lean who became a friend and mentor and encouraged him to switch from fact to fiction. For the next ten years, he wrote and produced a number of films for television and the cinema. In 1993 he met a blacksmith in the far South-West of England who told him about people who have the gift of healing traumatized horses. Nicholas started work on what was to be his first novel, The Horse Whisperer, which has now sold more than 20 million copies across the world.

Nicholas lives in Devon with his wife, the singer/songwriter Charlotte Gordon Cumming. In 2008 both of them ate poisonous mushrooms which destroyed their kidneys and put them on haemo-dialysis every other day for the following three years. In 2011, he was given a kidney by his daughter, Lauren. Both have recovered well. Lauren is back to working, running and going to the gym. She has 100 per cent kidney function. “She has given me back my life,” says Evans. “What greater gift could one imagine?”

Ian Brannigan (Sporting Patron)

Ian is a Project Manager with a pharmaceutical company and a member of Newcastle Athletic Club famed for running up mountains. Two years after being diagnosed with renal failure, Ian had a kidney transplant in 1998, since when his personal best times include running 400m in 56 seconds, 1500m in 4mins 37secs and 10k in 37mins 26 secs.

Ian, who has a PhD in organic chemistry, has been competing at the British and World Transplant Games since 1999 winning 38 British titles and 15 World titles.  He is married to Samana and they have two children. When he is not either training or competing he enjoys cycling and listening to music.

Jacqueline Dowding (Sporting Patron)

Jacqueline received a kidney transplant in 1986 and three years later took part in the Fastnet Race, one of the most gruelling races in ocean sailing. A crew of four transplantees, a doctor and a nurse they came second in their class. Jacquie was diagnosed with hereditary kidney failure by chance when she volunteered as a blood donor; her brother has since had a kidney transplant too.

Jacquie has spent most of her life at sea; sailing is in her bones and has been ever since she first crawled aboard her father’s wooden dinghy on the Essex rivers where she grew up. “Being on top of the waves is magical; a feeling of absolute freedom. I have sailed to so many parts of the world, seen so many wonderful places because of my transplant. Facing the unknown, and not knowing what direction your life is going to take, certainly makes you want to do more and get the most you can out of every day. Having a transplant has made me appreciate just how important organ donation is,” says Jacquie, who works as a Language teacher, sailing instructor and voluntarily as a SEA Safety Advisor with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

Orla Smyth (Sporting Patron)

Orla is a solicitor and marathon runner. Three years after her 2007 kidney transplant she wanted to raise awareness of “the immeasurable difference a transplant makes” and with her husband ran the Belfast City Marathon as a relay and has since she completed it herself.

Orla was diagnosed with a degenerative kidney disease when she was eleven. She continued to live as normal a life as possible for another ten years but at 21 she had to give up football and other sports in order to have enough energy to continue to work. Orla’s first kidney transplant failed and she had to start dialysis, putting herself onto her machine every evening, even on her honeymoon. Orla looks back on this time as being really hard but fortunately after three years underwent a successful transplant in 2007. Six months later Orla ran a mile to the shop. She continues to train and compete with City of Lisburn Athletics Club, raises funds for Northern Ireland Transplant Sport. Orla has won many medals in the World Transplant Games however as she says the real success story is that each of the thousand or so athletes, selected from their home teams of thousands more, can compete and represent their country because they each have received a transplant.