Meet Kidney Donor Athlete, Leslie!

I am Leslie Premo and I donated my kidney to my older brother Bill on October 1st, 2014 at Boston Medical Center.

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I grew up in Vermont in a very active and athletic family and community.  Participating in or watching sports and keeping a healthy lifestyle was always a priority.  Thankfully, exercise and keeping fit have manifested itself in my life as a lifestyle.  I often tell people that it is part of my life, like brushing my teeth.  It’s a habit and I do not always have great workout days or days that I feel like doing so but those are the days you drive on and get it done.

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As such, I have always been active on some level: track and field, basketball, aerobics, yoga, hiking, running, biking and kickboxing have trended in and out of my life as staples for exercise.  When I turned 40, I was looking for a bucket list item to accomplish. By chance, I went to a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and learned about Team in Training (TnT).  TnT is a program that trains fundraisers to do marathons, half-marathons, triathlons, and century bike rides.  I had found my bucket list item: a full marathon.  I found my local chapter and ran my first marathon in 2006.  I was hooked; both on the running community and TnT.  I went on to complete many fundraisers to include a century bike ride, several triathlons (half iron and Olympic distances) and another marathon.

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Ironically, I was packing my car to leave for the Shamrock Half in VA Beach when I received the phone call that my brother was hospitalized.  I traveled to VA Beach fraught with worry.  My running family embraced me when I most needed it for it was at that race that I learned he was in end-stage renal failure.  As soon as I could “google” what could be done, I contacted my brother and told him to tell his nephrologist that if I matched he would have a donor. 

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I never doubted my decision, I absolutely knew it was the right thing to do.  One day it dawned on me that since I am clinically infertile this was my means of giving life, what a joyful revelation! 

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I never thought my donation would impair my activities, just slow them down for a while. And that is precisely what happened.  After donating, my dear friend Andrea allowed me to stay at her house for the recovery (two weeks) before I had to go back to Boston for a follow up (I live in PA).  After a few days, I decided to take a shower.  Wow, I will never forget the strength that took and my sense of accomplishment afterward.  In the days that followed, we would laugh because we had her kids “take me for a walk” daily.  I would think about running as we walked and marvel at how much the donation had taken out of me.  It was an accomplishment to get to the end of the street and back. 

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Back home in PA, I continued walking and eventually started running again.  I made no timetables in terms of when to start running again, I simply did it when it felt right.  I completed the Marine Corps Marathon thirteen months after donation.  Except for maintaining hydration and taking Tylenol in lieu of NSAIDS, the donation has had no effect on my healthy lifestyle.  As I began to run again I appreciated how amazing our bodies are to recover so successfully. 

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Besides preventing my brother from having to go on dialysis, the biggest life lesson for me from donating is a deep empathy for those who due to health reasons cannot be as active as myself, and a heart-swelling admiration for those that have overcome diseases and physical handicaps and persevered in their endeavors.  One does not need to be an endurance athlete or achieve sports records to benefit from the healthy effects of sports and, more importantly, the relationships you build and the lessons you learn from participation.

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