Meet Kidney Donor Athlete, Kathleen!

I donated my left kidney to a complete stranger on October 3rd, 2017. I saw an ad on Facebook and I knew I was meant to be her donor. I answered the ad Memorial Day Weekend of 2017 and was approved by August!

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I have never thought of myself as an athlete before surgery and I’m just starting to see myself as one now. I taught myself how to run in 2013 using a couch to 5K program. I started doing a few 5k races and then knew I wanted to do a half. I began training for the SI Half. Along the way, I got bullied into more and in November of 2015, I ran the NYC Marathon. I finished at 5:51 and was so disappointed in myself. I went on to do a few more races, including the Disney Princess runs but I just never felt that passion again.

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In February of 2017, a friend convinced me to join Orangetheory Fitness. A new studio was opening right by my house. I joined and started in May of 2017. I was hooked! I became addicted and kind of started to fall back in love with running. It was at this time I started my journey to becoming a kidney donor. I was going through testing as I was getting into this awesome fitness routine. I truly believe that it was the workouts at OTF that allowed me to actually be Denise’s donor. On October 1st I took my last class before donating. I paused my membership and donated until November 4, 2017, when I went back to take my first class after donation.

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The four weeks after my surgery was hard. I was tired. So tired. I needed help with everything. Laundry, groceries, cooking, taking care of my kids. This was extremely difficult for me because I was not a person who liked to accept help. I liked to give the help. It was fall. I couldn’t take my kids apple picking because it was too much walking. Halloween was difficult because after a few blocks I got tired. My kids were upset. My husband claimed I ruined all the fall fun. I was so upset with myself for not being myself. I questioned if I would ever feel like me again.

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And then I went back to the gym. I was tired. I was crabby. I was bloated from the gas they used still, but I went back and it was the best decision ever. My coach, Coach Liz, was so overprotective of me. No heavy lifting. Nothing core. She would only let me power walk! I remember being upset and knowing it was for my own good but I still questioned if I was ever going to be myself. Then we had a run/row day. There were short runs followed by short rows. Liz let me run (after I begged) but only if I stayed off the incline and went easy. Running for the first time, about 5 weeks after major surgery felt fantastic. I stayed running, no more walking. I eventually built up my speed. I then started taking more classes and earlier classes.

I saw that NYRR had a healthy kidney run and I signed up for it. I took 6 minutes off my previous 10k time. I actually ran it in under one hour. I was amazed. I was running faster and with one kidney!! I placed third in my age category for the OTF dri tri event and couldn’t believe I was able to do that only 6 months after. I participated in two Spartans with my friends and my husband. It was so much fun!

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I then became obsessed. I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon (with no outdoor training- just OTF) and ran a sub 2! Me! a Sub 2!! I was amazed. I started meeting all these awesome determined runners and began marathon training. I did the dri-tri at my gym again and came in first place. Not just for my age but for the whole entire gym! I placed fourth in my age group for the SI Triple Crown races. Previously I didn’t even come close to the top ten! Then in October of 2018, a year and a few days after donation, I ran the Columbus Marathon is 4 hours and 27 minutes. a sub 4:30. I couldn’t believe it! I haven’t repeated that time but since then I have run the NYC marathon, the Chicago Marathon and the Philadelphia Marathon.

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I feel so much different now. Two years later and I still can’t believe how my body adapted. My right kidney is doing great. My creatinine level has never gone past a .96 and has been sitting at a .8 for the last year. I go to the gym 6-8 times a week. I have days where I get tired but as a 37-year-old mom/wife/full-time teacher that is pretty normal. I’m not really looking to run any more marathons right now.

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2020 is a time for me to get stronger, lift heavier, and work on my speed. But honestly, I really hope to inspire someone to share their spare because you can be better with one.  I’ve taken over 700 gym classes, trained for hours and hours for marathons, raised money for the National Kidney Foundation, spoken at the first Big Ask, Big Give event. I feel like I’m such a better person (and a healthy more active person) because of this!

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