Meet Kidney Donor Athlete, Sara!

My name is Sara Cain and I donated my kidney to my brother in 2017. I have always been very active and enrolled in some type of sport or working out on my own. Staying healthy and active is an integral part of my life. Before donation, I had run five half marathons, played collegiate-level lacrosse, and worked out 3-5 days a week. 

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The main difference in my activity level post-donation is I’m more conscious now about hydrating and recovery. I definitely feel more physically fit post-donation, now working out 5-6 days a week. My husband, who is very active, always motivates me and accompanies me on runs, hikes, and tennis matches. I’m more aware of what my body needs to fuel itself and take proper steps to recover after workouts. I know I have my transplant to thank for this!  

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However, my journey back to fitness after donation wasn’t a walk in the park. My body didn’t respond well to the anesthesia and pain medicine given to me during surgery. I was very fatigued, nauseous, and getting out of bed was difficult while in the hospital. In the picture below, you can see me doing laps at UCSF 9-Long with my mom (and my walker!).  

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Gradually I gained more strength. I walked at least twice a day for the first two weeks after surgery. My brother and I were able to recover together at my mom’s house which really motivated me to continue walking. Once my doctor gave me the green light I started running and cycling again, which felt great. I had no issues getting back into working out. I held off on doing core exercises for a while just to be on the safe side. 

I lost almost 10 pounds after surgery so part of my recovery and re-introduction to fitness was gaining more strength and eating more. I had always been a naturally muscular and strong athlete, so this was something that felt like very unchartered territory.  

Six months after surgery my brother and I ran our first 5k together! Prior to the transplant, he didn’t feel well enough to exercise regularly, so this was his first race ever!  

Fast forward to today, I am feeling awesome, fit, and healthy. I’m grateful for this journey and all it has taught me about nutrition (mainly hydration), recovery, and patience. Would do it again in a heartbeat.  

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