New father gave up drinking after being diagnosed with haemochromatosis

New father Andy McLennan had to give up drinking after being diagnosed with haemochromatosis.

Living in New York with his wife Gillian and baby daughter Isla, Mr McLennan went for his annual medical insurance review which revealed he needed further tests because there was a problem with his blood.

Andy McLennan, with his wife Gillian and daughter Isla, had to give up drinking after being diagnosed with haemochromatosis (University of Exeter/PA).
Andy McLennan, with his wife Gillian and daughter Isla, had to give up drinking after being diagnosed with haemochromatosis (University of Exeter/PA)

Doctors diagnosed him with haemochromatosis and said he would have to undergo weekly venesection to give a pint of blood.

That was in the summer of 2012 and since then Mr McLennan, now 42, and his family have moved back to Scotland.

“I led a busy and active life in the city. Working, playing football, going to the gym, going to concerts etc, on top of having just become a new father, therefore it was no great surprise that I generally felt tired and jaded,” he said.

“In the city that never sleeps, we lived a vibrant social life which generally meant meeting friends in restaurants or bars as apartment space was limited and home visits were infrequent.

“The fast paced lifestyle and the fact that I wasn’t driving meant that alcohol consumption was more than just a weekend indulgence.

“With the above factors combined, there was no way I would have visited a doctor to complain about fatigue or muscle/joint pain.

“My wife’s persistence that we both get checks before moving back to the UK was the only driver.”

It was not until mid-November that Mr McLennan was finally diagnosed with haemochromatosis and told to avoid certain iron-rich foods and alcohol, while continuing to exercise.

Andy McLennan and his daughter Isla (University of Exeter/PA).
Andy and his daughter Isla (University of Exeter/PA)

“I vividly recall coming home each night, having put any worries to the back of my mind during the working day, holding my 10-month-old daughter and pacing the floor saying to my wife ‘What is up with me? Is it diabetes? Would I know if I had cancer? Could it be leukaemia? What if it’s something serious?’,” he said.

“It was a truly shaky time for the three of us who desperately wanted to know what the future would hold for my health.

“I like nothing more than a steak, pint of Guinness or glass of red wine, but health came first and I immediately ceased drinking. Festive season and special occasions the only time I indulge in a glass or two now.”

After six years of treatment, Mr McLennan, who is now living in Glasgow and working as a data product manager at Scottish Television, was told he no longer needed to undergo regular venesection and he credits his diagnosis as helping him to maintain an active lifestyle.

“I feel really lucky to have had that early diagnosis,” he said.

“I will never be over this disorder, but I hope to always remain on top of it.”