Human Race: ‘Running truly is the best medicine’

What makes a man give up one of his organs to a stranger? For Edward Batch, the answer can be traced back to running. ‘It all started when I responded to a request on a local running Facebook page to run a marathon wearing a T-shirt raising awareness of live kidney donation,’ explains the 39-year-old. The post was from fellow runner Craig Pietrzyk, the father of an 11-year-old boy, Matthew, who needed a kidney to save his life.

Edward, from Leicestershire, took up running three years ago and has completed events from 5K to ultra distance. ‘I experienced physical and sexual abuse as a child, and over the years I had tried many other ways of coping with the post-traumatic stress disorder I suffered,’ he says. ‘Running was the answer. It truly is the best medicine.’

Edward was struck by the friendliness of the running community, so although he had never met Matthew or his family, he wanted to help. After receiving his T-shirt and wearing it in many races, Edward decided he wanted to do more. ‘I sent a Facebook message to Craig saying, “I don’t know if it’s as easy as this, so excuse my ignorance, but I have a spare kidney if it helps. I’m more than willing to donate to a good cause”.’

Matthew had had a kidney transplant when he was two, but it was not successful. He was on daily dialysis and taking 18 tablets a day to stay alive. ‘Craig told me that the odds of finding a match were extremely remote,’ says Edward. ‘But he said that if I was willing to donate, I should go register an interest and take it from there. I resolved that even if I was not a successful match for Matthew, I’d donate to anyone who could benefit.’

Why? ‘The only answer I can give is, why not?’ says Edward, who is married and has three sons. ‘I have all I need in life and Matthew needed something I had but did not need to live, so why wouldn’t I help?’

Determining Edward’s suitability was not a quick or simple process.  ‘Every day I wasn’t at work I would be at the hospital for some kind of test or scan,’ he says. The tests he had to undergo were not just to determine the compatibility of his kidney, but also to establish whether he was physically and mentally prepared for what was to come. After a year Edward got the news: he was a perfect match and the operation could go ahead.

‘I firmly believe that it’s down to running that I was fit enough to be suitable for the operation,’ he says. ‘I adopted the same method of preparation for the testing process and the operation itself as I would for an ultra. I broke everything down into smaller steps to make it easier and each step was a winning point for me. I never thought about pulling out – I knew I would see it through, regardless of what it took.’

Edward met Matthew for the first time a week before the operation. ‘It was surreal because even after such a lengthy process and the nature of what you’re doing for them, you are meeting as complete strangers. You worry about how you’ll come across and whether they’ll like you.’

On July 28, 2016, Edward and Matthew were admitted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for their operations. It was the first time Edward had stayed in hospital, but he wasn’t daunted. ‘I never once felt scared or ever doubted I would do it,’ he says. ‘I just knew it was my path in life and I was happy to walk it.’

The operations were a success. Matthew is doing extremely well and has even been for a run. ‘He says his new kidney makes him a runner,’ says Edward. ‘It’s been nicknamed “Eddie Junior”.’ The pair have only met once since the operation but Edward hears about Matthew’s continuing progress from his parents. ‘It’s so important that Matthew settles and gets back to a normal routine’.

Edward’s own recovery has been remarkable, too. Having been warned that he may have to remain in hospital for up to two weeks, he was discharged after 48 hours. Three weeks later he started on a Couch to 5K plan and built from there. ‘Again, I believe my running has been a factor in my recovery,’ he says. ‘I tried to view the process as like starting a training plan. I began just by getting out of bed, then walking and then trying to get a little further each time.’

Edward is back at work and running 30-40 miles per week, and although he says it will be some time before he’s back to the level he was at before his operation (‘I’ve had to have a look at my diet, because the donation can affect protein levels’), he has his sights set on two ultras this year, a solo 24-hour event in September and, before that, the Grand Union Canal Ultra. ‘It’s 145 miles non-stop. If all goes to plan it’ll be less than a year from operation to ultra. Running is part of my identity now. It’s given me so much and I can’t imagine my life without it. I’m so glad that I was able to help a fellow runner and his family.’


For information on organ donation, click here.