Meet Kidney Donor Athlete, Tamara!

My oldest sister went into kidney failure due to medications she was taking to control her blood pressure. After being on dialysis for years they decided that she would need a transplant. She was scared to ask me to even check to see if I could be a donor but of course, I didn’t even hesitate! She asked and I said yes! Miraculously we are both a rare blood type so I was a perfect match!

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Surgery was delayed another 2 years due to insurance issues. I had to get cleared for surgery twice meaning I had to go through testing all over again. We were finally able to schedule a date in the fall of 2016 and set the date for December 27, 2016.

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I’ve always been fairly active – played sports in high school and then followed some type of workout regimen ever since college (20 years ago). Only recently about 6 years ago did I learn the importance of weight training. I started lifting more and doing cardio less. My weight had also fluctuated between 150lbs to 180lbs over the years. In 2016 I decided to compete in a bikini competition to get rid of the weight once and for all. This involved lifting 6-7 days a week plus 40-60 minutes of cardio a day so I was working out twice a day. I lost 30lbs in 5 months and competed in my very first NPC show on October 29, 2016. We underwent transplant surgery on December 27, 2016, 2 months later. 

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Recovery post surgery was extremely hard for me. After dropping 30lbs right before surgery not being able to work out was devastating. About 2 months post surgery I started off slow with some light cardio doing 10-15 minutes on the bike or treadmill every few days when I felt up to it.

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As the weight quickly came back on I became more and more discouraged. Obviously, my body was not able to handle the level of workouts I was performing during competition prep.

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It took a few months for me to get back to lifting heavier and rebuilding my strength. Honestly, having gained so much weight back post surgery I’ve been on again off again with a consistent regimen. Right now I do circuit training and indoor cycling at least 4-5 days a week.

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I feel a bit more sluggish and tired ever since surgery. Ab exercises can be difficult. For example, I often experience a sharp pain when holding a plank for too long. The only thing I’m really cautious of now is my protein intake as directed by my transplant team. They were very concerned about my weight going up and down due to competition and the amount of protein I was consuming during that time.

I am currently back up to 185lbs and learning to accept my body as is. Trying to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle and not focus on my weight. Getting in a few great sweaty workouts weekly and being mindful of what I’m eating is what I’m focusing on now!

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