Fulham's Kevin McDonald has revealed he's been battling kidney disease for around 14 years and will put his career on hold as he undergoes surgery.
The Scotsman has enjoyed a distinguished career in which he's achieved promotion to the Premier League on three occasions - once with Burnley in 2010 and twice with Fulham in 2018 and 2020 - and those feats are made all the more impressive following the revelation he's suffered with the disease for the majority of his playing career.
The midfielder hasn't featured at all for the Cottagers this season, leading many to question why he hasn't pushed for a move away from the club.
He's now explained why he hasn't been involved in first-team action, adding that he'd hoped to not have to undergo surgery until he'd finished his playing career, though the severity of his condition has meant urgent action is required.
"Over the years, my kidney function has got worse. That's what happens as part of the disease, it gets worse over time," he told Sky Sports. "We hoped I could get through my football career, then have a kidney transplant at the end of it but, unfortunately, it's not happened.
"I've got one kidney that doesn't work at all and one kidney that's about 10%. I've been playing with stage one, to now stage five kidney disease, which is chronic kidney disease, kidney failure.
"Now we're speaking up on this because a lot of people have been asking me, 'why are you not going out on loan, why are you not playing, why are you going into coaching so early?'.
"It's hard to digest but football is second priority now. My life, my family, my friends are number one, with my health even on top of that. That's where we're at now and we've just got to get on with it."
McDonald added that he wasn't phased by the thought of having to undergo the procedure, and that his previous clubs have been nothing but supportive towards him, though he admitted he would be forced to retire from the game entirely if he was advised to do so by his medical team.
"In terms of the transplant, I've always been relaxed about it." he added. "I have trust in my kidney team, I always have done, as well as doctors at my football clubs. Wolves and Fulham especially, have been top drawer in terms of taking care of me.
"That's always reassured me and now meeting the surgeon and talking to him, I have even more confidence in him to do the surgery, which is major surgery. It has to be done, whether it's now, at the end of the year, in ten years, it has to be done at some point.
"The way my mind is now, I want it done, I want to get back to normal life. I take ten tablets a day so I want to get back to normal life and hopefully it will soon be like that. I've always been in the boat of 'let's go on as long as we can, at the best level we can'.
"I go off the doctor's advice and my kidney team's advice. If they said to me, 'listen, you have to retire tomorrow', I'd be done."