I am five years kidney strong!
I grew up in central Michigan on what we now call a “hobby farm”, riding horses, baling hay, cross country skiing, showing 4H steers and lots of walking/exploring on our acreage. The only real working out I did was years of ballet and tap dancing. Even now, living in a small ski town in northwest Montana, I really don’t think of myself as an athlete compared to my friends and husband who are all are extremely athletic and competitive.
Although I did some trail running while living in Reno, Nevada I was more into partying and being wild in my 20’s. When I met my husband who was very active in biking, hiking, and skiing, I started to take running and partying less more seriously. At the time he had a 100-pound black lab who quickly became my buddy on my trail runs and hikes. Twenty-two years later, we now have Baxter and Mac who are our third and fourth Labradors. They are the best trail dogs a girl can have.
I have been working at a timeshare resort and living in Whitefish, Montana for the last twenty years. Customer service is definitely my superhero power in addition to being built with an internal compass. I hardly ever get lost! For years I’ve worked closely over the phone with my timeshare representative in Indianapolis. I was alarmed after he missed several phone meetings. When I asked him if he was ok, I could hear the shock in his voice as he told me he had just found out his kidneys were failing and would have to go on dialysis or find a kidney donor. Almost without thinking I asked if I could be his donor. Surprised, he asked if I was serious since we really only knew each other through work and had only met in person one time. Being naïve and not remembering basic anatomy, I asked is this something that one can donate. Don’t do we have two kidneys? After doing some quick homework, a profound feeling rushed over me that I was put on this earth to save this man’s life!
My family, of course, was very concerned, and my husband who is always very supportive was not that happy about this decision that I had obviously made myself. With my customer service superpower, I was eventually able to get everyone on my side. My friends and family even surprised me with a Going Away Kidney Party complete with, pin the kidney on the donor, a beautiful cake topped with a kidney dripping in blood, and chili with kidney beans, of course.
Our travel to Indianapolis for the donation was delayed in route due to Snowpocolypse that shut down airports across the Midwest. What should have taken six hours took us five days and reschedule of surgery by one day. I could write a whole other article on that week of ‘adventures’ up to the day I left Indianapolis.
The challenges didn’t end there. In regards to my post-donation, I really believe in surrounding yourself with lots of support. I have always loved my job, but at the time it was at a moment of transition and was very stressful to return to. I was also dealing with a work bully during this time of recovery, and the two stress of it all eventually sent me into depression. Once I realized that I was depressed, I worked hard on changing some things in my life- to start trail running again, and to change things at work. Yes the bully was fired and the transition all worked out smoothly, but depression took a couple of years to finally shake off and I am currently super happy with my life.
Getting back to trail running was hard – my heart rate was stupid high and I would feel like fainting, even on a slow jog, but I refused to let that stop me. Annually I sign up for at least a couple of races and just have fun, chat with people, give high fives to the peeps that are passing me and just finish even if it’s last! My heart rate is a ton better and I have my hydration and eating dialed-in which can be a fine line if you are not ahead of the game during race week.
Oh, and did I mention I played roller derby? For six years I was Viola Blood playing roller derby and in the best shape of my life until I donated my kidney. When I retired I was happy to not wake up with bruises, broken ribs and be going to the chiropractor three times a week. From that, I will forever have the best group of derby sisters that I have added to my circle of friends and I can count on them for anything.
Now I am #runningwithonekidney with Baxter and Mac and working hard to keep my pre-menopausal body in good shape.