Surgery went as planned with no complications for myself or the recipient. I was released from the hospital on day 3 and embarked on a recovery that brought some new obstacles, but ultimately Peace.
I did not have to worry about running that stop sign
Day four post-op, I embarked on a short walk to the mailbox about 250 yards from my house. At about 75 yards I reached the stop sign at the entrance to our court where I was overcome with fear and anxiety. Not only was I unable to take a deep breath, but I also lacked the energy and strength to complete the mailbox trek.
A way of life
At the age of 57, athletics and exercise were part of who I had become. I was fortunate to have been mentored in a variety of sports and outdoor activities culminating with competitive swimming in college. Most of my adult life was military service. Training sessions were opportunities to establish bonds created through shared sacrifice. Athletics offered a venue for teamwork and camaraderie. Outdoor activities became a way to connect and recharge.
I used to chase those numbers
With each training session, competition and outdoor activity, I established a number that represented success. That number would be time, repetitions, weight or distance. I never really tracked nutrition in any detail other than to emphasize protein. I only drank water when I felt dehydrated.
Recovery became measured from mind and body feedback
At the stop sign, the only number I thought of was 9-1-1. That day was the beginning of a new journey. With the help of my daughters and the Army Wellness Center at Joint Base Lewis McChord WA, I set out to optimize performance by emphasizing the triad of sleep, activity, and nutrition. What used to be exercise, would become a holistic approach to overall fitness and well-being. I learned to listen to my body and chase different numbers.
It took about a month to run that stop sign and make it to the mailbox without being winded. At about two months, I could sleep on my back without discomfort. Three months post-op, I began to do bodyweight movements with an emphasis on core strength and overall mobility. I was able to execute pulling movements at six months. It did take almost a full year, not to feel that ‘tug’ when doing pull-ups or leg raises. I took several naps in the first few months when my body and mind needed to rest.
Ironically, we learned that we did not really need ‘that gym’.
With fitness centers and swim pools closed, our venue became turf fields, stairs, rope obstacles and rocks. I believe that not having gyms and machines enabled us to return to the basics of functional fitness along with a discovery of well-being.
Now I chase these numbers
I am back to regular exercising and hope to experience the camaraderie of events and outdoor activities once again. I track new numbers such as hours of sleep and water intake. I meal prep with nutrition macros as a guide. Clinically, I am healthier than I was before donation with the exception of creatinine, but that is expected. I hope now to also track the number of wonderful Kidney Donor Athletes that I have yet to meet.
Living donation offered me the opportunity to unlearn the fitness approach that I had acquired over the years. To those that are contemplating living donation, I did not recover…..I grew to something holistically stronger.
A special thanks to Tracey Hulick for establishing this collaborative site and cheers to all the KDA’s.