I knew Anna for years. I met her when she was on dialysis the first time back around 2008. I cleaned for her and we instantly became friends. Anna is about 10 years younger than me. When she was in her early 20’s she found out she had an autoimmune disorder that was affecting her kidneys. She received a kidney from a deceased donor around 2010 and then we both started running and doing triathlons and being involved with the same local groups.
Time went on and we grew apart but still saw each other out at events. In 2015 she came to my wedding and it was around that time she found out that her kidney was failing and would be placed back on dialysis. She was told it would be best to find a living donor and so she started putting out a plea on social media.
In January of 2017, I really felt God speaking to me that I should get tested. I knew instantly that I would be a match and that she would be receiving my kidney. I passed all the tests with flying colors!
The only surprise in the whole process was about a month before the surgery date. The recipient had some issues that almost caused us to postpone the date but she was able to get things squared away with the doctors and move forward as planned. I didn’t have any surprises personally. I educated myself with the process and joined an online Facebook group. Thankfully everything went pretty smoothly.
My children were thrilled with my decision but had questions and concerns. Once I told them what is involved and how it would affect me they were completely on board. My husband was slightly hesitant at first but quickly jumped on board as well. The rest of my family and friends were mainly supportive with the occasional person that was confused as to why I would do such a thing.
On August 7, 2017, we had the transplant surgery. I never once felt scared or unsure of my decision I guess because I knew that this was a test of my faith with God and that he would have everything under control. Everything went smoothly and recovery for me went better than I anticipated.
My recovery was extremely easy and fast. I did not take any pain medications once I was home. I was sore and tired but not in pain. I even went back to my office job at 2 1/2 weeks.
As far as activity in my recovery goes, the first week home I had walked 30 miles, going out twice a day. By week two I did my first half mile run down the street and back. After that, I started incorporating more and more running into my walking. At 6 weeks post op, I ran a half marathon and another one at 10 weeks. The only hurdles were my endurance and speed was lacking. I also noticed my heart rate would go up quickly even though I wasn’t going fast so I just had to be aware and adjust. Hydrating was and is key in whatever I do. Nine months post op I did a marathon (my 3rd one)!
I continue to run and do triathlons like I did before donation. My plan is to do a full Ironman in 2020 which will be 3 years after my donation.
I didn’t have to change much in my training or my daily life post-donation. I keep a water container at my desk and try really hard to consistently drink throughout the day. As far as running, I bought a Nathan hydration pack that I use on any mid to long runs. That way I am not dependent on finding water, I always have some with me. When it’s hotter and I need something extra I add Nuun tablets to my water for electrolytes. I tend to wear my hydration pack in races as well.
I have been fortunate to connect with some other donors since the surgery. As I said before I’m on a Facebook support group. Through that, I have made a couple friends, one of which lives about 1 1/2 hours from me. I was able to travel with her, and another donor in the area to the Chicago Meetup for the Guinness Book of World Records. I also found out that an older runner in our local running group was a donor many, many years ago so it’s nice knowing that as well!
My racing season is getting underway and I am planning some 5k’s in the spring and an Olympic Distance Triathlon in the beginning of June and sprint distance 2 weeks after that. Also in June, I will be doing a 5-day bike tour in upper lower Michigan which will be good training for my 70.3 in Traverse City in August.
I believe we are all chosen to do great things in this world. Some ignore the calling out of fear or lack of information and some of us dive right into the challenge believing that it’s what we are meant to do. I encourage others that are on the fence of donating to reach out and talk to people who have. Talk to medical professionals and arm yourself with the knowledge to move forward in your decision. Life is all about using your gifts to help others!
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE TO KIDNEY DONOR ATHLETES TO HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION TO RAISE AWARENESS AND SHOW THRIVING EXAMPLES OF LIVING DONORS, PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING!