(If you haven’t followed along on Clinton’s kidney donation journey be sure to click here to get caught up!)
Time flies when you are having fun! It has been a little over a year since my kidney donation, and so much has happened after my last update. The most important thing is my uncle’s health is as close to perfect as it has ever been!
He had a 6-week battle after receiving my kidney, and when it seemed as though rejection may be a reality, a drug called Rituxan immediately improved his body’s acceptance of the new organ. The last-ditch effort worked, and the third kidney biopsy was canceled. He continued with very frequent bloodwork and adjustments to 22 different medications. His health and kidney function have been improving, with his one year numbers being the best yet! He is thrilled to now be only taking 4 medications!
I had a few minor issues post-donation and I hope that by sharing these issues it makes people feel more at ease if they experience these things as well. I think all of our bodies are unique and no two donations will be the same.
At about 10 weeks post-donation, my body began rejecting the dissolvable stitches in my belly before they could dissolve. I developed redness, swelling, and tenderness on the incision. This is not too uncommon. I found out it is usually resolved by simply pulling out the suture by the “tail”, which should be hanging out each end of the incision. The problem was, I misunderstood directions, and had cut the “tails” off. The surgeon’s nurse did a little slicin’ and dicin’ and tried to pull the suture out to no avail. That was actually more painful than any part of the donation surgery since there was no pain relief! We made the decision to leave it alone and let my body try to break it down. Luckily it resolved itself within a couple more weeks.
My blood pressure has always been very good but increased significantly post-donation, which is very common. Our kidneys help regulate blood pressure, so the removal of one kidney messes up how our bodies regulate this. I really noticed my blood pressure rise when I drank coffee. My heart would race and it made my body feel quite uneasy. I quit drinking coffee altogether for a few months. As my one kidney got larger and reprogrammed itself, my blood pressure has settled back down, but it is something I continue to monitor.
I learned shortly before donation, and much to my surprise, during a meeting with my surgeon how men’s “family jewels” are connected to our kidneys. He told me there may be some soreness and swelling in that area after the surgery. I definitely experienced some of that uncomfortable feeling down there, which I believe I made worse by running and being active a little too soon. Guys, you may want to pay special attention to this and be aware of what’s going on down there before you start getting really active.
I have included some charts of bloodwork so people can see and compare results. My donation was April 10 with pre-donation and post-donation labs shown. My doctors have told me these numbers are all OK and are happy with them all. I believe all our bodies will respond differently, so your numbers may be very different, and that may be perfectly healthy for you. Being in tune with your own body is so important, especially during donation recovery. I was hoping for better numbers at my one year, but I think slacking on my diet and hydration may have been a part of it. We can always improve on both of those!
Overall, I think my recovery was fairly typical. Donation seems like it happened much longer ago than a year, and it is something I don’t even think about on a day to day basis. What I do think of daily is how thankful I am for my health and happiness. I feel like I was already on a wonderful trajectory in life, and donation has changed me for the better in ways nothing else could have.
The last year I have realized more than ever how special each experience in life is. I have taken more trips, loved harder, and laughed louder than ever before. We owe it to ourselves to make the absolute most out of every moment we are alive. I am continuing to learn how attitude and mental toughness can overcome even the most difficult physical barriers.
I have spent my last year pushing myself to do things I thought were near impossible. My first real test back was the Bear Chase Trail Race 50k outside Denver on Sept 28. I had never run an ultra at that elevation, or with one kidney, and didn’t know what to expect. As the race progressed, and the miles added up, my body held up and I was able to finish feeling relatively strong.
Long after my race had ended Tracey Hulick was still running, trying to complete her first 100k. Being a part of her cheer squad and seeing her finish just added more fuel to my fire. It gave me even more confidence to continue to push myself.
It was suggested by a friend that we attempt what he called a R2R2R hike. This “hike” is typically done over the course of 4-5 days as a backpacking trip. He proposed we start at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, hike down 4400′ to the Colorado River, cross it, climb 5800′ to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, take a selfie, and then hike back……in one day! It seemed absolutely audacious and I was all in!
My friend was unable to come, but on Nov 23rd I completed the hike totaling 48 miles with 11,000′ of elevation gain. That hike will be one of my most memorable hikes for the rest of my life. It took me over 15 hrs to complete. The feelings of the grueling physicality mixed with the surreal beauty of the Canyon will forever be with me.
I then ran the Psycho WCo 50k race on Feb 22 near where I live in Kansas. It was muddy and proved to be challenging on my legs, but it was great training for all the sand I would be running through during my next run.
On March 14, I started a race longer than any I had ever run before. My hydration was on point the entire race and I finished the Antelope Canyon 50 Mile Ultra in 10 hrs and 5 min. I felt ecstatic to have been able to train and execute so well just 332 days after my donation.
I don’t think kidney donation is right for everyone. Donation requires a significant amount of time and energy to both physically and mentally prepare, donate, and recover. However, if you are looking for a challenge and want the chance to dramatically improve another person’s life, then there may be no greater reward than the life-changing experience of donating your own kidney!