Samson Ma’asi
Posted by: woodface (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 10:10

Know this has been mentioned in earlier threads but interesting feature in today’s Telegraph. Apologies for posting the article in full but only posting the link will not work unless you’re a subscriber.

Good luck to the lad.


RUGBY UNION: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
‘I can live with one kidney. 
Samson needs 
it more now’
Former Tonga hooker Vili Ma’asi had no hesitation about donating an organ to save his son’s health and rugby career, he tells Daniel Schofield

We are family: Vili Ma’asi (left) with his son Samson, a hooker in the Northampton academy
After racking up more than 10 operations in 15 years playing in the dog-eat-dog environment of the English second and third tiers, Vili Ma’asi practises a particularly Tongan form of tough love towards his five sons who are just starting out on their own rugby careers.
At 6am, before they attended school each morning, Ma’asi would have them all on a rowing machine, setting a relentless pace for them to match. It has only been in the last couple of years since Ma’asi turned 40 that they have overtaken him.
“They hated the rowing, I loved it,” Ma’asi, who won 36 caps for Tonga, says. “I know it is very hard, but that’s what I like because the harder you work, the better the results.
“I was brought up in Tonga which was a hard life. I worked hard every step of my career. They need to do the same. I think sometimes these guys are too soft. They are. They are brought up to be nice. This is the easy generation.”
‘I was brought up in Tonga which was a hard life. I worked hard every step of my career. 
I think these guys are too soft. They are brought up to be nice. This is the easy generation’
However gruff that exterior, love always outweighs toughness. So, when Samson, a hooker in the Northampton academy who has captained England Under-18s, suffered a kidney failure this year, Vili had no hesitation in offering to donate a kidney to save his middle son’s health and possibly his career.
The operation took place on Nov 14 but, unlike his previous experiences under a knife, there was a complication. Vili contracted an infection in his lungs that resulted in him remaining in hospital for a further week. Even when The Daily Telegraph visited Vili and Samson at the family home outside Peterborough, the patriarch of the family was wearing one of his daughter’s rather fetching pink sequinned bobble hats to stay warm.
Samson is also on the mend, so Vili has no regrets. In his mind, it was never a question of sacrifice. It was simply doing what had to be done. “No was not an answer,” Vili, who also represented Cornish Pirates, Leeds Carnegie, London Welsh and Ampthill, says. “It’s your son. He needs it more than me. I can live with one kidney. It was just a case of me getting him well. I haven’t done anything any other father would not.
“It is not heroic in anyway. He’s my son. I don’t want anyone else to donate their kidney, his brothers or anyone else. They are all trying to achieve something in rugby. I have been there and done that. I am the one who can live with one kidney. I will get on with my life and hopefully he can have a career.”

Samson first noticed something was wrong when he felt a peculiar pain in his big toe during a training session in May. He tried to ignore it, but the next day the pain had become excruciating, so he went to see the club physio, who took a blood test. That weekend, he played just his second Premiership match against Worcester Warriors.
The next week, the tests came back. Samson had severe gout, which is caused by a build-up of uric acid. The club doctor also told him there was something wrong with his kidneys, so he went for further tests at Northampton General Hospital. “The day after, they called me and said I had kidney failure,” Samson says. “That was a real shock.” His kidney was functioning at just 20 per cent.
Why that happened to an otherwise perfectly healthy 19-year-old is a mystery. “I had a biopsy of my kidney and they called me back to say that they can’t see why, but it is too scarred and too far gone,” Samson said.
Although there is little scientific literature on the matter, it does seem Pacific Islanders are more prone to kidney problems. Two years ago, The Telegraph reported on the plight of Sione Vaiomounga, a Tongan who suffered a kidney failure while playing in Romania. Ironically, it was Vili who arranged the contact with Vaiomounga. The great All Black winger Jonah Lomu, whose family is Tongan, was on the waiting list for a second kidney transplant when he died at the age of 40. The intake of supplements and painkillers may also play a role.
“It is definitely something we need to raise awareness of,” Vili, who is now coaching at Peterborough Lions, says. “Players have regular screening for their heart. Can you do the same thing for your kidneys?”
If Samson had not received the transplant, he would be forced to undergo dialysis sessions three times a week, which would have ended his nascent professional career before it started. By the time of the operation, his kidney function had dropped to seven per cent, while his levels of creatinine, the waste product from the breakdown of muscle tissue, was 900 micromoles per litre; a normal level is 100.
Remarkably, he still took part in Northampton’s pre-season programme. “That was super tough, but it was the best thing for me,” Samson says. “I never used to come in and be negative. I was still loud and annoying. They knew behind closed doors I was feeling bad. The club have been fantastic to me. Dyls [Dylan Hartley], especially, was brilliant, helping me when he was going through a tough time.”
‘He knows how grateful I am. I feel like it is a new start now. It is up to me what I do with it’
Despite Vili’s infection, the operation was a success. Samson’s kidney function has returned to 68 per cent and his creatinine levels have dropped to 400. “It is crazy, you don’t think you are going to feel great the day after, but the very next I went for a run,” Samson says.
It is still a long road to full health. The body can reject a donated organ at any time, although a transplant from a living family member has the greatest chance of success. Samson, who must take 15 tablets a day, is aiming to be back playing for next pre-season. The debt he owes to his old man is considerable, although largely unspoken.
“I am not good at the soppy stuff,” Samson says. “He knows how grateful I am. I feel like it is a new start now. It is up to me what I do with it. All I want to do is carry on and make the most of my career. I want to make him and the rest of my family proud.”
The Ma’asi family will spend Christmas at the home of another Tongan player, Paino Hehea. According to Vili, a Tongan Christmas involves “eating, drinking and music in that order”. This year will be different. “As a family, just seeing him well is the best thing ever,” Vili says. “We are going to try to cut back on the drinking and really put the kids first.”
Still, at least Vili does not need to think of a gift for his son. He has already given Samson the best present possible.

Re: Samson Ma’asi
Posted by: manxsaint (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 10:13

Thanks, Woodface - I'd just finished reading the article in the online Telegraph when you posted.
A wonderfully heartwarming story - all the very best wishes to young Samson - and his incredible father!

Re: Samson Ma’asi
Posted by: Wilson Pickett (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 10:57

great, good luck to them both

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