On December 12, 2018, I donated a kidney to a stranger…now, not a stranger as we met the week prior to surgery.
(Here is a link to the news story that covered the initial meeting!)
My journey began almost a year ago with the interest in becoming a living donor when I saw a segment on a news program about living donor donations. After watching this new segment I was amazed that the need was so great and that there weren’t more people raising their hands to donate. I was not at all concerned about the process, the surgery etc.…my biggest concern was “can I continue to run?” When I got the answer of “yes” I was all in! I knew the recovery would take some time but as an athlete and runner, I have been accustomed to pushing my limits and dealing with pain. Mind over matter has always helped me in my runs. I use the motto “Every mile earned never given!” So I thought this couldn’t be anything I couldn’t easily overcome.
The following year in 2018 I decided to move forward with becoming a living donor and filled out an application with Florida Hospital in my area to do a living donor donation. I didn’t care who my kidney went to and was willing to donate to anyone I was a match for.
While waiting for their call my husband heard of an individual named Angel needing a living kidney donor. Angel had been on a mission this year doing everything he could to find one (bumper stickers on his car, wearing shirts stating he was in search of an O+ donor, and creating a Facebook page). Angel was in kidney failure and had been on the list for almost 4 years. He was receiving dialysis three days a week and his future was dependent on him finding a living donor himself. Once my husband told me the story I contacted Angel immediately and knew I was 100% committed to testing and moving forward with becoming a donor for him. The process started in August 2018 and continued into November until we got the final approval we were good to go forward with the transplant.
While Angel and I only communicated via telephone where I would keep him updated on every step of my testing, we had yet to meet in person. A week prior to our scheduled surgery we finally got the opportunity to meet in person. Our transplant took place on December 12, 2018!
My surgery was unique as they removed my right kidney. Removing the right kidney is not normally done but I had a small benign cyst on this right kidney, so the surgeons wanted to leave me with my left kidney in the event something for me would go wrong in the future.
After surgery on December 12, 2018, I was discharged from the hospital on December 14th, 2018. When I returned home I began doing walks as the doctor recommended and was up to almost 2 miles most days and some stationary bike work also.
On December 26, 2018, I had my two week follow up and was given clearance to run on January 3, 2019. My question to my doctor at that follow up was don’t tell me I can do little by little, I need the date I’m free to run without causing any injury! I cheated by one day and made my first attempt at running on January 2, 2019. I ran 2 miles without stopping however my time was about a full minute slower. I had some stomach discomfort like a stomach ache after the run and some soreness in my ribs the next morning. The next day I ran 3 miles and will continue to run longer and improve over time.
I’m running the Nashville Half Marathon this April, so I have some time to get myself back to where I was pre-surgery. I’m prepared to not have my best run but knowing what I have done to change the life of someone in need is way more important than my time at this race.
While I’m not an Olympic athlete running has been a huge part of my life since I was in high school and I have completed several full marathons and may half marathons.
For me running became very important after the suicide of my brother in 2014. Since then I have dedicated every marathon or half to him. I carry in my pocket a dated penny with the number of run we are doing. We are now up to #5 running together since his passing. In general, I run 5 days a week with some cross training. When I’m not training I do not follow as strict of a schedule as far as distance each day.
To date, my recipient is doing very well and there has not been any rejection. I think awareness of donation is so important. Individuals aren’t educated on the process and for me, I had really no setbacks with just two weeks off work and needing some help from my husband. The only thing I will have to watch now is my hydration needs on my long runs and monitor my blood pressure.
I continuously get the question “why would you want to do this?” My answer is simply “why isn’t everyone else doing it?” I had the opportunity to save someone’s life, someone who needed something I could provide, leaving me to still lead a healthy life and continue to pursue my passion of running. So, the decision to donate was just that simple! Donating was such a rewarding experience and the life long bond I share with my recipient is priceless. In the future, we plan to do a race together and are targeting this fall of 2019.
Kristen was also featured in Runner’s World where she got to share the reason why she runs. It is a beautiful story, and you can check it out here.
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