Meet Kidney Donor Athlete, Cody!

My story starts way back in the “good ole days”, the summer of 1990 (Or I’m assuming it was the “good ole days”. I was about to be born so I have no clue.).  A wonderful young couple was living the good life. They had been married for ten years, they lived on a nice farm in the country, and they had their own place to stay. The only thing missing was a family. They had tried to start their own, but it just was not in the cards. They had even looked into adoption, only for the other party to back out at the last minute. But Fate had other plans. They learned of a baby who was about to be born in a couple of days who needed to be adopted. After a whirlwind of surprise baby activity, they came home with a wonderful baby boy named Cody. Yup! That’s me!

All through my life, I was never what you’d call an athlete. I played basketball for a year before realizing that just because I am tall does not mean that I’d be the next Michael Jordon (or Lebron for you younger folks). I settled in a nice role as the team statistician for basketball and baseball and enjoyed every second of it. I could get out of class, watch sports, AND not have to exercise! It was my own American Dream! This streak continued into college, where I would sporadically attempt to run a mile, learn that it was super hard, and then stop because I felt like I was too out of shape, even though I was approximately 100 pounds soaking wet.

My sedimentary life changed in 2015. The girl I was dating at the time was an avid runner and signed up for a challenge race where you would run a 10K on Saturday and then a Half Marathon on Sunday. The best part: the race was at Disney! Let me tell you something about me. There’s no better motivator for me than three things: Sports (even though I am terrible at them), a nice cold beer, and Disney. There were some spots left open in the 5K and I figured why not, so I signed up for my first race! I researched training methods and after trying some out, I landed on the Jeff Galloway method. I picked my run/walk ratio and I trained my little heart out. Race day came and went and although I felt like no one cared since it was “just a 5K”, I was hooked. Side note: finishing a 5K is impressive. If anyone tells you it isn’t, they are either too stuck up to remember how they started running or they have never done one themselves. Maybe they hate Christmas and puppies too. Who knows.

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Registration time for the race rolled back around and I had a decision to make. Would I do the 5K again or would I push myself? I decided a 10K would be fine and signed up for that. Soon afterward I became single out of a long-term relationship and it was tough. I needed something to make myself believe in me so one night I bit the bullet and signed up for the half marathon as well! The race was in April and I convinced my sister to sign up for the 5K as well so I ended up doing all three races that weekend, plus spending the week in Disney World walking around the parks. My body may have been exhausted when I got home, but my heart was so full. I’m not going to lie. I may have gotten a wee bit emotional when the volunteers put that beautiful half marathon medal around my neck. When I got home, I signed up for ANOTHER challenge weekend in November, this time in Disney Land and quickly started to training.

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Around July, my Dad got bad news. Ever since he was in his thirties, his kidney function had slowly started to decline. When he got tested that time, he found out his function was down to only 14%. His doctors told him that he would either have to find a kidney donor within a year or go on dialysis. My sister and I both volunteered to get tested, and my testing date was the week after my November race. My run came and went. It was a tough race, mainly because I slacked off with training, but I finished. Now came the fun part: the testing.

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Testing to become a donor is not hard at all, at least for me. I went and got some tests ran and sat through an orientation and met with doctors and counselors and a whole team of people. Thanks to my newfound love for running, I was healthy enough to donate, we just had to wait for the blood work to come back and see if I matched or not.

As I said before, I am adopted. The chances of me being a better match than my sister, who was biologically theirs, were astronomical. While I was waiting, my sister went and got tested too. Soon after her testing dates, I got a phone call from the hospital: I was a perfect match. Our surgery was scheduled for February 19, 2018, which was also my mom’s birthday. On January 1st, I started getting ready. I tried to work out more, I stopped drinking anything but water (and the occasional sweet tea. I am Southern after all), and I was ready.

However, it was not meant to be. After complaining of stomach pains, my dad went to the doctor who sent him to get a scan. The results came back positive for diverticulitis. So a week before the surgery, we were put on hold. Up to this point, I was ready. I had a plan and I followed it and I had kept myself busy. After being bumped back for surgery for a month, my mind began playing tricks on me. I couldn’t sleep, whenever I ate my stomach decided to revolt on me, and I was constantly stressed out. I finally decided to go talk to a counselor and it was a total game changer. I was ready again.

March 12 finally rolled around and the surgery was on. I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me the relief of knowing that it was over and that my dad was ok was overwhelming. The painkillers probably helped with that too, but oh well. I got sent home the next day and my dad came back home that weekend. I got cleared to start back doing light cardio a couple of weeks later and I did my first post-surgery 5K in May. It was definitely not my fastest time, but I finished. I promptly signed up for a November half marathon with my friends and I was ready to start training again!

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Pro tip: If you sign up for an early November race, you start training in July. As I said earlier, I live in the south. From July to about the first half of October is HOT and STICKY. As in dollar movie theater floor sticky. Training was awful. One of the main things you’ll read about post donation kidney donors is that hydration is super important. My running definitely suffered during the summer months and unfortunately, I had to drop down to the 10K for my upcoming race. But before I changed my distance, I signed up for yet another challenge at Disney in February of 2019.

Life post kidney donation is different for everyone. For me, I found that I have a lot more compassion for people than I did. Saving someone’s life, whether it is a friend or family member or even a stranger, changes you on the inside. I definitely feel more like I have a purpose post donation than the “paper bag caught in the wind” feelings about life I had before. I’ll probably never run anything longer than a half, but that’s more because I see that as something I couldn’t touch anyway and it has nothing to do with me having donated a kidney. If you’re like me and only want to run a few races a year and you’re not going to be the fastest person in the corral, you’ll be fine. If you want to do more, you’ll be fine too. Just make sure to listen to your body and to your doctors and take your time. Come February I will cross the finish line yet again and hopefully, I’ll be able to report to ya’ll that I have a new PR! But even if I don’t beat my time, I’ll have pushed myself and that’s what running is all about. Pushing your boundaries, one step at a time.

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