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Kidney transplant patient Nicky Clifford celebrates with a wing walk over Headcorn Aerodrome


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Why would Nicky Clifford want to climb aboard the wing of an airplane and zoom around with only a five-point harness between her and the ground 500 feet below?

"Because I can," was her answer, "And to support some very good causes."

Nicky Clifford mid-flight (39796735)
Nicky Clifford mid-flight (39796735)

Mrs Clifford regards herself as lucky to be alive after undergoing a life-saving kidney transplant 26 years ago.

Since then she has undertaken a series of challenges that most of us would balk at to show that transplant patients can still live a rich and active life.

She has abseiled down tall buildings, done a sky-dive, and represented Great Britain in the World Transplant Games in Argentina in 2015 where she picked up two bronze medals - for table tennis and for race-walking.

Her latest adventure saw the 53-year-old from Frithwood Close, Downswood, near Maidstone, take to the skies above Headcorn Aerodrome yesterday strapped to the wing of a Boeing Stearman biplane, watched by her family and friends.

Her bravery has already raised more than £1,000 in sponsorship which she is donating jointly to Kidney Research UK and to Transplant Sport, the charity that helps organise the annual British Transplant Games.

Nicky Clifford with her daughters Megan, left, and Ella, right
Nicky Clifford with her daughters Megan, left, and Ella, right

She said: "It was exhilarating, really enjoyable. Just a fantastic experience."

Mrs Clifford had originally planned the wing walk last year to mark the silver jubilee of her transplant, but initial delays compounded more recently by Covid 19 lock-down meant the adventure ended up as a celebration of her 26th anniversary.

Mrs Clifford was just 22 when she was first diagnosed with her inherited kidney condition. The kidneys remove toxins from the body which are then excreted in urine. Without them performing this vital role, the body quickly poisons itself.

She was eventually put on peritoneal dialysis – and even had to wear her dialysis tubes underneath her wedding dress when in June, 1993 she married husband, Antony, at Maidstone's Archbishop's Palace.

But in 1994, she had the call to say that a kidney was available for transplant. The donor was a 35-year-old motorcyclist who sadly lost his life in a road accident. Importantly, he had registered a wish to donate organs after his passing with the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Mrs Clifford said: "Both my mother and father had a defective gene, and although they were well themselves, the combination when they produced me was too much."

Reaching heights of 500ft, Nicky Clifford on top the Boeing Stearman biplane
Reaching heights of 500ft, Nicky Clifford on top the Boeing Stearman biplane

After an operation at Guy's Hospital in London, her health has gone from strength to strength.

She doesn't know the identity of the biker whose gift saved her life, but she decided that she owed it to him to live her life to the full.

Anyone wishing to donate to Mrs Clifford's fund-raising can do so here.

For more information on kidney health, visit here.

Fortunately her two daughters, Megan, 23, and Ella, 19, have avoided inheriting the condition.

Nicky and Antony at their wedding in 1993
Nicky and Antony at their wedding in 1993
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