We have always joked that I was my Dad’s favorite because I was the only one to have his brown eyes. As he began to face different medical concerns, the joke changed to me being the one giving him a kidney. Around the end of 2016, my family realized that these jokes were becoming reality and that my Dad would need a kidney. As it turns out, I was the only match out of the three siblings. The news honestly could not have come at a better time for me physically. I had been conditioning myself for a half marathon, so my body was in the best shape it had been in since high school. I was running between 15- 25 miles a week and hitting the gym each morning before work. Once we committed to a surgery date, I was even more motivated to become physically prepared in the hopes to ease recovery. I even roped my sister into this ordeal with a “Fit Sisters, Fit Kidneys” board on Pinterest and began forcing her to the gym a few times a week too.
I donated my kidney to my father on March 20, 2017. After surgery, I was convinced I would return to work in 4 weeks and would be working out in eight. For the most part, recovery went as expected. I was up and moving within 48 hours and was out of the hospital after 6 days. However, that is when I felt like the reality of recovery hit me. It was harder than I anticipated standing straight up and the worst was sleeping. As someone who sleeps on their stomach, I was lost. Most nights I would sit in a chair and watch television until I dozed off for an hour here and there. Nevertheless, I continued to feel more normal as each day passed. Right when I was planning to go back to work, a wrench was thrown into the plan. I went to my primary doctor thinking I just had a cold, which actually turned out to be pneumonia, meaning I was out of work until I finished my antibiotics. My goal of 4 weeks off was only delayed by five days.
After going back to work, my focus quickly turned to when I could get back to running. My return to fitness began with walks around the block to test out my abdominal strength because I was still having trouble standing completely straight, which can be documented in so many photos where I look like I am bent over laughing. Thankfully, my family and friends knew this was bothering me so they would remind me to stand straight up when I would begin to hunch without realizing it. Two weeks later, everything was going well, and with permission from my doctor, I went on my first run post-op, May 28. Just 2 months and 8 days after surgery, I ran a mile and it felt so natural. My legs picked right back up where they left off. I slowly worked my way up to a 5k by the end of June. When I could do that with no problems, I committed myself to get back into shape for a 10 miler and then a half marathon as a birthday present, to me, the following April.
Not much has changed in my fitness routine. I do not feel limited in any way. I am just more aware of taking care of myself now. I make sure I am hydrated and keep a close eye on my heart rate. My heart rate was the only real concern the doctors ever had during recovery for me. When in the hospital, I kept setting off alarms anytime I sat up or got out of the bed for the bathroom, my heart rate hit the 160s and the monitor would start beeping. Finally, I had to be unhooked from the sensor to save everyone the headache because I knew this high number was my “normal.” Prior to surgery, while running it was getting into the upper 180s and 190s. I took precaution and went to my cardiologist and everything checked out. As a safeguard, when I leave my house to exercise, I am sure to grab my two essentials- my fitness watch to track my heart rate and my medical bracelet announcing my restrictions as a kidney donor.
As I am 18 months post-donation, I have no regrets. I am back to life as usual (and just as importantly, so is my Dad). I just attended the Donate Life Family Fun Run in Baltimore. I never realized this community of organ donors existed and how many lives organ donation truly affects. As I continue on my donor and fitness journey, it has been great connecting with others and hearing their stories.
Now that I have conquered organ donation and my half marathon goals, I am training to participate in the Chattanooga Marathon in March 2019. The adventure continues…