Time to talk lab results!
As an overall healthy person, I never paid much attention to the specifics of any lab work I ever received. I would often be told my blood pressure and then ask, ‘Is that good?’
Even with donating a kidney in May of 2017, I did not start to pay much attention to the details of my kidney function in lab results until I was training for my first ultra-marathon post-donation. There was very little information out there geared towards kidney donors that were endurance athletes and I wanted to take good care of my remaining kidney!
May 22, 2017
Let’s start at the beginning. The day before surgery. This is my kidney function when I still had two kidneys. (I have included the reference for the standard range for a person with two kidneys in the screenshots.)
May 24, 2017
The day after surgery, my BUN and creatinine were tested.
June 13, 2017
At my three-week post-op appointment, my creatinine had gone down just a hair, and my BUN had shot up. Totally normal for someone who just donated.
September 28, 2017
At four months post-op, I had just raced a half marathon a couple weeks before this blood draw. The BUN was starting to trend back down, and creatinine had dropped quite a bit (which was a good thing).
During all these results, I didn’t care about the specifics a whole lot. I wasn’t running long distances, I was eating pretty healthy, and having a few cocktails a week as my norm.
June 29, 2018
With my June 2018 blood work, I became more curious about what my kidney function would look like. My diet and alcohol habits were the same as previously, I was now living at altitude and paying even more attention to hydration. I was also in the early phases of training for a 50 miler. As you can see, my creatinine was creeping back up, but I was assured that was fine. My transplant team was very well aware that I’d be getting back to running ultras and that kind of effort makes the kidneys work harder. I had their blessing.
May 31, 2019
Fast forward 11 months and I got the blood work that really started to get my attention. My creatinine was even higher. Again, my transplant coordinator assured me it was fine considering how much I was training. At this point, I was two months into a 6-month training block for a fall 100k. I also learned how much your hydration the day of the blood draw could have an impact on your creatinine number! I distinctly remembered thinking about how dehydrated I was that morning since I flew the day before and had two glasses of wine the previous night with dinner. (Note to self – hydrate better for your next blood test!)
With their blessing, I continued to train hard for the next four months while paying even better attention to hydration. I was still eating the way I always have (pretty healthy, with a little meat and cheese on a daily basis as well as a few cocktails a week).
Only a few days after my fall 100k was over I started pondering how I could recover faster. I obviously was hurting everywhere and wanted to get that part of the healing process over with as soon as possible. Inspired by a podcast, I decided to jump on the bandwagon of ‘Sober October’ and give up alcohol for the month. Two weeks after that I decided to also try out a vegetarian diet for three months and see if I felt any different. (I have always enjoyed treating my body as a bit of a science experiment in an effort to feel as great as possible, as often as possible.) After about ten days I went full plant-based. (Dairy did not agree with me and somehow I never realized it until this process of changing my diet).
The alcohol-free lifestyle is still going strong for me, as is the plant-based eating. As I went in for my lab work last week, I was very curious if my numbers would look any different. I was working out every day, often twice a day so I was very active, and feeling great overall.
February 24, 2020
I was super happy with the results!
My creatinine, BUN, and eGFR all look great. In fact, the BUN and eGFR numbers are in the normal range for a person with two kidneys, and my creatinine is only .01 away from the normal range for a person with two kidneys. Yay!
I am not sharing this to make a case for plant-based eating or living alcohol-free. It is what I have been tinkering with that seems to be working well for me. At this point, I am strongly considering training for another ultra-marathon next year with added blood work to see how my kidney function handles the workload with a plant-based diet.
I have received quite a few questions from fellow KDA’s about lab work, why certain numbers are going up or down, if other KDA’s have experienced this, how much protein can we really have…? And I definitely don’t have the answers, but I am very willing to share the details of my journey with this so far. I hope this post encourages other donors to speak up and even share their results. I hope people share what seems to be working for them, what concerns they have, and create a dialogue.
As this community grows, I am hopeful that the medical community will grow an interest in studying donor athletes so we can have some concrete research to refer to!