I started running in my late 30’s after moving to a Minneapolis suburb and joining a run club. What started with a half marathon quickly grew to several marathons a year and even full Ironman races. Fortunately, my wife also enjoys running and triathlons and she joined in as well.
I’d always known that I would be willing to donate a kidney to a family member and even a very good friend if asked. That got me thinking… how close or long must the friendship be to justify the donation? It seemed silly to establish an arbitrary number – as though I would say yes to a friend I’d known for 10 years, but no to someone I’d only known 9 years.
Continuing that line of thinking, why wouldn’t I donate to a stranger if asked? After all, the risk is minimal and as an athlete, I was comfortable with the inevitable discomfort that would come with the surgery and recovery. And finally, I realized that if I was willing to donate to a stranger if asked, why wait to be asked?
At the age of 47, with the support of my wife and kids, I made a non-directed donation at the Mayo Clinic on December 15, 2014. The laparoscopic surgery was uneventful.
I was doing email and work calls that afternoon, walking that evening and home the next day. By day four I was walking a mile or two and I worked short days in the office the next week. Fifteen days after surgery I ran a 5K in 26:52; 5 weeks later I ran a half marathon in 1:48; 3 months later another half in 1:41; and a full marathon in May in 3:40 (my second best marathon time ever). I finished the year with Ironman Florida.
I continue to run 2—3 marathons a year as well as other distances. I’ve run 34 marathons in total and am pursuing the 50 States Marathon goal (27 states to go!). I can say without hesitation that my kidney donation has not impacted my athletic ability or really any aspect of my life. I avoid ibuprofen (and all other NSAIDs) and try to stay hydrated when training and racing, but everyone should do that.
Although my donation was non-directed, I was able to exchange letters and eventually meet my recipient. She’s a woman approximately the same age as me and her life as well as the lives of her family has been transformed by her restored good health, made possible by my donation.
I tell people that if my kidney would grow back I would donate it again. Best of all, my experience has inspired two of my athlete friends to make non-directed kidney donations and their experience has been very similar to mine.
You can check out my Tumblr at http://exitrowiron.tumblr.com/