Another Update from Kidney Donor Athlete, Varla!

Well, it has been an interesting year but my solo kidney is doing very well (and so is my socially distant kidney). My last KDA update was in my 6 week recovery period post-donation surgery. I was doing well and excited to get back to training after 6 months off the mat thanks to my broken arm as much as the donation. In early September 2019, I had my 6-week check-up and was cleared to resume my normal life. I had also been finally cleared by my orthopedic surgeon to use my arm fully, including full contact training.  

 

Windy winter hikes 

This, however, did not release me back on the mats. I knew something was off with my left shoulder and went to my rehab guy, which led me to physiotherapy for a partially frozen shoulder. A combination of protecting the broken left arm, collapsed left lung, and chest tube as well as being over 40 were the causes. The biggest challenge was that it can be a slow process to release the shoulder in this situation. The mats would have to wait and I stuck to my rehab program well.

 

My transplant tattoo
Varla’s Transplant Tattoo

 

By mid-December, it was loose enough for me to stop physio, but this was the middle of the peak summer season so I was super busy at work and everyone else was on holiday so there wasn’t much option for Jiu Jitsu. In January I was back at physio for the right shoulder which was freezing up from the overcompensation in the past 10 months.

 

I did, however, start going to Jiu Jitsu classes to get back into routine and start building my fitness up, with the idea of rolling carefully with select partners. This proved harder than I expected as my overactive brain freaked out at me. I knew I was weak and still not fully healed and the last time I had trained ended in two snapped bones. My brain is always my biggest enemy and I had some fear to overcome. Just another challenge to work through, not something that will stop me. I worked through a similar mental aspect after my concussions. 

 

After training with my housemate

 

In early March, I finally had clearance from everyone, including my physiotherapist, to train fully again so it was time to build my fitness and face my fears. Unfortunately, by mid-March, we were dealing with COVID-19 and Jiu Jitsu was one of the first things that stopped. Full contact training is not very social distant friendly! And then lockdown hit and work became much more intense. We dropped from 17 staff in the live animal sections to 2 teams of 3, alternating in 4-day shifts. The first month was tough and I would spend most of the 4 days off recovering.

 

Yoga 4 BJJ with my housemate

 

However, there were good aspects. I had the best team and although it was hard work, it was fun as everything we did was with the animals. I was also getting a good amount of exercise, including strength training with all the large boxes of fish for the seals.

 

Nose kisses with my seal puppy

 

In May, my coach started Zoom Jiu Jitsu which my housemate and I were able to do together and I added running to my routine. It was all on hills as we were only allowed to run near home, but that also pushed my fitness levels up. In June we started training in a small group of 4. I was happy to realize that my fear is much less intense as I am not injured, my fitness is much better and the small group I am currently rolling with are all people I trust. It is helping me build confidence so when it is safe to train with everyone again, the fear will not be as debilitating as it was. 

 

Hiking with my Jiu Jitsu family

 

My kidney function has done really well and below I’ve included the stats from the first tests in this journey, through to my 1-year check-up. I’m very happy with my results and although it has been a tough year, I’m so grateful to see how Jason’s life has improved in the year (despite the fact that he is in hard lockdown to protect himself from this pandemic).  

 

Kidney Stats.jpg 

 

I am incredibly glad to be back on the mats in some way and excited for the day when I can train with my whole team again. I want to show everyone that you can compete in Jiu Jitsu with only one kidney and we have plans to head to Abu Dhabi in April 2021 to compete in the World Championship, which would be an incredible opportunity to show the world what Kidney Donor Athletes are capable of! 

 

Post run with my housemate.jpg

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