COMIC Rhys James featured in BBC Celebrity Mastermind to raise money for Peterborough charity Kidney Research UK.
Rhys took part as a way of saying thanks for an easy recovery after having a kidney removed at the age of 10.
The comedian jumped at the chance to support a charity close to his family’s heart.
Rhys, 29, who has made a name for himself in programmes like Mock The Week, chose a specialist subject of The American Office comedy series, then instantly regretted it when he realised it involved revising 250 episodes.
“I said yes to Celebrity Mastermind and was immediately terrified. I chose The Office thinking it would be fun to rewatch, but I made the mistake of making it ‘work’.
“Every day, squeezing in a few episodes. Other people had subjects like Die Hard. That’s one film. Mine was 250 episodes! It made sense to ask my friends and people on Twitter to quiz me. Luckily this was all before lockdown, and it was a good excuse to go to the pub.”
“Being on Mastermind was a great experience, and I’m glad to have supported a charity that my family cares about very much.”
Rhys smashed it by getting all his specialist subject questions correct, and although he didn’t win, he did an amazing job raising money for Kidney Research UK.
Rhys has no kidney issues now, but at the age of eight, he began getting pains in his side and by the age of ten, the pain had become excruciating.
Following a series of tests, doctors found one of his kidneys had shrivelled up and failed.
“I was told it could happily sit there if need be, but because it was causing so much pain, they advised it was better to take it out.”
The removal surgery took place at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and he remained under their care for check-ups until he was 16.
“Afterwards, I felt special. I was the only kid at school who could have a bottle of water on the desk to stay hydrated, and I could go to the toilet whenever I wanted without having to ask a teacher for permission! Such privileges! Amazing!”
Like many kidney patients, he was advised not to get involved in contact sports, but it was not a big deal for Rhys as his passion was always writing.
“I used to joke that my inability to do contact sports was karate’s loss. During rugby, they used to make me jog around the pitch until I started ‘forgetting’ my kit and then I could just sit inside on the computer.”
Meanwhile, the remaining kidney is fine, and Rhys enjoys a healthy lifestyle.
“When I was at Great Ormond Street Hospital, I saw kids in the same ward with far more complicated and serious issues. While it wasn’t minor, the procedure I had was done so efficiently, and my recovery time was minimal. Doing Celebrity Mastermind was a great chance to pay forward to help others who have not been as lucky.
“People are suffering from kidney disease in much more difficult situations than I was, who benefit so much from kidney research.”
Rhys appeared on Celebrity Mastermind alongside wildlife TV presenter Steve Backshall, BBC radio presenter Noreen Khan and Labour MP Caroline Flint. BBC One – Celebrity Mastermind, 2020/21, Episode 11.