I can still remember the smell of the burning rubber on the track when winter turned to spring, the feeling of my lungs gasping for air at the end of interval training day, and even the burning pain I felt in my legs after finishing a 400m race. High school was only a decade ago, but the lasting memories make it feel like it was yesterday. I was Cresskill High School’s track star back then.
I was the first girl in Bergen County Scholastic League (BSCL) history to win the 100m at the BCSL meet four years in a row. I’m also a Four-time Group I County Champion and three-time Group I State-Sectional Champion in the 100m. I was even featured on News 12 New Jersey for winning student-athlete of the week. One decade later, I still hold the high school record for the 100m at 12.46 seconds.
Track and field was more than just a high school sport to me. Competing in track and field, along with the leadership of my coach Mike, taught me several lessons that have stayed with me even to this day. Whether it was lessons about commitment, perseverance, determination, resilience, good sportsmanship, or even kindness, I’ve tried to apply these lessons and characteristics in all facets of my life; even long after I was no longer competing.
My track career ended when I graduated from high school. I continued to play pickup basketball in my spare time throughout college. Since then, I’ve been a part of a number of female and co-ed basketball and flag football teams. My husband Steve has done nothing but encourage my active lifestyle. Our mutual love for basketball actually led us to take our engagement photo shoot on the basketball court in my hometown. When we travel, we like to visit the arenas in different cities to watch as many NBA teams as we can. We also enjoy traveling to the nearest national park to hike the beautiful views while visiting those cities. When we’re at home, we go to the gym together three times per week.
Throughout the years, I’ve suffered from many injuries including a sprained ankle, torn ACL, broken nose, and several concussions. Despite all these injuries, I could never imagine a day where I would stop playing basketball for anyone or anything. This all changed when I decided to become a living kidney donor.
In November 2017, I discovered through a Facebook post that my dear friend’s nephew was in need of a kidney transplant in order to survive. After undergoing months and months of rigorous medical testing, I found out I was a near perfect match for this recipient. On October 10th, 2018, I was supposed to donate my kidney via a laparoscopic left nephrectomy. However, two weeks prior to the scheduled surgery date, I played in what was supposed to be my last basketball game prior to my operation. Unfortunately, I was involved in a freak accident where my head hit the blacktop and I suffered from a mild concussion. As a result, the surgery was postponed indefinitely.
Since that day, I have put my active lifestyle on hold. No more football. No more basketball. I resisted the urge to participate in contact sports due to fear of possibly further delaying the transplant again. On December 12th, 2018, I will fly to Seattle for the third time to try to give one of my kidneys to a man that has none. I know it will be several months before I get to step onto a court again. I look forward to the day where I get to lace up my Curry 2s again, but until then, core exercises, weight lifting, and HIIT workouts will have to suffice.
Throughout this journey, I’ve been introduced to a number of events that bring donors and recipients together; from walks and runs that seek to raise awareness to vacation cruises that build new friendships. However, the event that really caught my attention was the Transplant Games of America. The only way I can describe it is the U.S. Olympics for organ donors and recipients! And in July 2020, The Transplant Games of America will be coming to my home state—New Jersey. This event features a number of competitive sporting events, including tennis, basketball, and even track and field. It’s time to bring the track spikes out again, except this time…with one less kidney.
Thanks for sharing your story! Sending good vibes your way for great health now and after your upcoming surgery! You’ll be back to the sports in no time!
Neil is my cousin. I’ve had kidney stones and so couldn’t even try to be a donor for him. Our family thanks you!
Janelle, What an inspirational person you are! Thank you so much for the unselfish sacrifices you are making to allow my son to live a healthier more fulfilling life. Your healthy life style will help for a fast recovery. I will be praying that you will be back on the court in no time. Many, many, hugs and prayers. Thank you.
You are simply remarkable!!!
What cn amazing person you are. So selfless. Neil is my cousin also. Thank you Janelle!
The people to whom you’re donating are the kindest people I’ve ever met and so dear to everyone that had the pleasure of going g through life with. You’re a real saint amd I’m grateful people such as yourself still exist in the world. What a gift you are. And many thanks!! ❤️👏🏼
Hello, and hope everything went great for you as planned on Dec 12. Merry Christmas and thank you for donating!