Friday, March 4, 2011

Racing After Kidney Donation

"Will I be able to race long distances again? Endure the heat and hills of the Wildflower Long Course? Even the Hawaii Ironman?" The thoughts were there, but after praying about it, I felt the answer would be more "Yes" than "No". I came to realize it depended more on what Christ wanted to do through me, rather than any side effects of donating a kidney.

It really wasn't a hard decision. Ever since my best friend told me in 1993 that his 2 yr old son had a life-threatening disease, I'd wanted to do something. A couple years before that, I was there, celebrating with my best friend the birth of his son. We were both 23 yrs old. His baby boy was the coolest thing since our High School days. As the years went by, I saw the effects of Alport Syndrome degrading his hearing, growing, and endurance. But what a great kid. He called me "Uncle Troy" and each time I raced the Hawaii Ironman, he came with his parents to watch me.

Bobby's parents spent a lot of quality time with him. They knew his time with them was uncertain. In 2009, his kidneys were failing him. His dad told me that he needed a transplant and they had been looking but no family members were possible candidates. Immediately it all became clear. I never knew it was a kidney disease, that would disappear with a new kidney. I felt like the Lord was unveiling this opportunity and telling me "you were always unsure how to help; I've made it easy for you now".

Right away, my wife and I prayed about it, and the possible effects on our 2 precious little girls. I could save my kidneys for a daughter. But I had never met a kidney donor, so most likely, I, too, would finish life holding on to both kidneys. Here was an opportunity to give to someone in need. But if I donated, I could suffer ill health. I could even die. Yet, without donating, I'd still probably deal with some health issues. I knew plenty of people dealing with cancer and serious ailments.

The most important thing was what God was putting on our hearts: You can't really experience the blessings that come with having faith unless you do something requiring faith. And that "no greater love is shown than a man lay down his life for a friend" (John 15:13). However, donating a kidney really isn't "laying down your life". Results show that the other kidney compensates by growing bigger. In fact, some studies show that kidney donors live longer than non-donors.

My wife was fully supportive and I immediately began testing for a match. There are many factors to being a good match besides blood type. But thanks be to God, I was a perfect candidate. However, there were still close friends and family that wanted us to reconsider. Even triathletes that told me I could forget about doing Ironmans again. But one day my doctor put me in touch with another donor. He was an ultra-cyclist. He was riding as well as ever and enjoying life since giving his kidney.

In July, 2009, I went for a morning run before young Bobby, myself, and our families met at the transplant hospital. He was just out of High School, his kidney function now done to almost zero, and EPO was the only thing giving him enough red blood cells to stay alive. Yet he was the polite cheerful kid I always knew. He held a large bag of all the medication he's been on for years. He described one as a bottle of chalk he had to swallow each day. This pale-faced kid knew God would take care of him. We all prayed. I felt completely at peace and so appreciative to have this opportunity.

0908_kidneydonation24The surgeries were successful and immediately Bobby's complexion starting showing color for first time in years as the new kidney helped restore his blood. 18 yr-old Bobby recovered faster than anyone expected. In about a month we were both able to jog.

I had some difficulties during recovery but soon was back to biking and running with a goal of Wildflower in 8 months. In fact, I was on my way to better health because of things I learned during the exhaustive tests they do during candidate selection. They found a hernia and fixed it and they found a blot clotting abnormality which meant I needed to stay active - an encouragement to continue as a triathlete. And, doctor's orders to drink more water, which helps in more ways than just kidney function.

Last year I completed the Wildflower Long Course with one kidney operating at the capacity of two. And Bobby grew 3" since surgery, started college, was down to 2 medications, and could now do strenuous activity. It's just been such a great blessing. I feel like I've lost nothing and gained everything. For this, I thank my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is faithful and knows what really brings me joy. Yes, I will be able to endure the heat and hills of Wildflower, because through Him all things are possible. Perhaps I will even get to the Hawaii Ironman again..

Saturday, July 31, 2010

1 Year Kidney Anniversary

Yesterday we visited with Bobby and his family.  He's really grown.  His mom says he went from 5'7" to 6'3" in the year.
A year ago today, I was given the opportunity to go into surgery, along with my best friend's son.  My family, his family, it was an amazing day, and Bobby impressed everyone with his new color, energy, and fast recovery.
Since then, I've enjoyed hearing about Bobby and his return to work, his new college classes, his outdoor activities and his creative mechanical expertise with anything that has a motor.  Recently he backpacked about 19mi in Yellowstone National Park!
It's been a great year for me.  Even though I was laid off, I was then blessed with a better job.  I did some bike races, 5 triathlons, and the most running in years.  In October, a prayer we maintained faithfully for years was answered and my sore foot started getting better, allowing me to run more and more.  And when I run, I often talk with God.  And the day is better because of it.
I haven't noticed anything less with 1 kidney, except for being 5 lbs lighter and getting a little more winded in hard biking efforts early on.  However, my remaining kidney has supposedly been getting stronger and my performance now on the bike is probably as good or better than it's ever been.

All in all it's been very much like the doctors said.. no difference than with 2 kidneys.  But I give the credit for everything good to Jesus Christ.  There are risks in everything we do, so I hope to not take each day for granted, but to remember it is a result of His giving.

There are many people still awaiting kidney donation.  I talked with a few people since and recently a relative of ours donated to his brother-n-law.
I have felt so blessed to be a part of all this.  Everytime I hear Bobby say he feels great, I couldn't be happier.
Jesus gives and takes away; it this case He has given to both of us.

Troy Soares

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

6 Month Milestone - Troy & Bobby Doing Great!

It's been 6 mo. since the kidney transplant and I'm still doing well and happy with my training and increase in strength.  But what makes me really happy is hearing good news about Bobby (Bob).  Just got a great update from his Grandmother, Sandy:

"Yesterday Bob and I headed down to Roseville (Thank you Lord it wasn’t San Francisco) for his 6 month post transplant checkup. Doctor Katz-Nelson was amazed at how well he is doing. Sometimes it seems as though he is disappointed that he can’t find anything wrong. Bob is down to 2 medications, both minimal amounts of anti rejection medication. For the most part he is having no side effects other than a slight tremor in his hand and maybe a little thinning of the hair, which are both possible and normal. His white count is good and his cretin which measures kidney function is at .9 which is excellent. He has continued to grow, adding 3 more inches since surgery—over 6 foot now. Still needs to add some weight, but right now is probably more of a genetic thing. He will have another appointment in 4 months. His lab work has been reduced to twice a month for February and then down to once a month. All indicators that everything is going great."

The update also mentioned a funny thing:  the Kidney Swap program that Bob and his Grandmother were on finally came back with a possible 4-5 way swap using his Grandmother's kidney... but then realized that Bob already had his kidney.

It's always possible that his kidney can reject at any time, but he is over a major hump we're all trusting the Lord for many years with his new one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bobby Looks Good

Saw this picture of bobby and his parents during their recent trip to the desert, a common family outing for them, and it just seemed Bobby looked bigger, stronger, taller... at least I know the dog is definitely bigger, stronger, taller but he was more a puppy last I saw him.

Anyway, Bobby is doing well and his Grandma says she can notice the higher energy levels when he helps her around the place. This really makes me happy. The doctors are happy, too.

I'm feeling good and don't notice anything different with 1 kidney. Although my fitness still has a ways to go as I notice heavier breathing biking these Auburn hills, but I expect that is from those many weeks in bed. I've had 2 good runs lately (running 2.6mi once a week) and getting faster (<9min/mi pace). I've had a long-going foot problem which the doctors said there's no help, so I thank the Lord for these runs which show He's allowing my foot to get a little better.

My weight seems to have stabilizied around 163. This is 5 lbs less than my 2-kidney days. I've been getting physical therapy at American River Rehab to help build the abdomen back up and help other issues.

Before, I didn't know anyone with kidney issues besides Bobby and now of course I'm meeting many more. I'm glad to share my experience with those that are going towards a kidney removal or kidney transplant procedure. I know the best thing for me was being able to be secure knowing the Lord would take care of my family and I. Praying is the biggest help.

I also feel hopeful about the job situation and that God has something lined up. I have 1 more month at my current job and then will hope to transition to an aerospace or electronics company between Sacramento and Grass Valley, or possibly work as a contractor/consultant for a while which I enjoyed doing a couple years ago.

Thanks again for the support and everyone that's been asking how I'm doing and how Bobby is doing. We're doing well!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Anyone Need an Electrical Engineer with One Kidney?

I continue to be privileged with your nice notes and phone calls of support. And I've passed on the encouragements to Bobby as well. We're both doing well. In fact Bobby had a great checkup and his dad reported "... Bobby was given a clean bill of health by the doctor - meaning he can now go about life as a normal yayhoo of 18 years old. Pretty crazy to think that we finally have a healthy son! Thanks God (and Troy too!!)"

I also wanted to let you know that I'll be looking for a new job as my company is eliminating my position and laying me off in November.
(I am an EMI/EMC Electrical engineer and can send you my resume in case you know of any leads)
This is due in part to Rockwell Collins shutting down it's San Jose plant - one of it's significant West Coast sites.

This doesn't feel too surprising considering the economy. And our hearts have been comforted by what Jesus has been doing in our lives and the promise He's always fulfilled to lead us to even better places.

There are also 2 blessings hidden here that I thank God for...

  1. Usually no notice is given in a lay-off, but since mine was grouped with the "plant shutdown" of San Jose, I was given the required 2-month notice.
  2. Because of the nausea, I had to go back on medical leave a 2nd time and this was when the San Jose lay-offs were announced. I believe that being on medical leave postponed my notification for a couple weeks which, in the end, kept me employed longer to receive additional vacation weeks.
So these blessings, and the unseen future blessings to come, and the good news from Bobby's checkup are all things we thank the Lord for.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The First Jog, The Last Relay

Sorry, It's been 2 weeks and I haven't posted. It's been a good 2 weeks, though :)
Thanks again for the amazing support I've gotten! The great emails, cards, encouragements and the prayers, from friends and churches, for Bobby & I.

Last week Bobby told me he feels like 100%, is jogging and wants to be cleared to work. He still has to be extra careful until the 3-month no-rejection goal is met.

On 9/2 Robin & I met with the GI specialist, the surgeon, and the transplant coordinators and it all went well. The specialist diagnosed the nausea problem as a result of mini-ulcers possibly caused by the aspirin prescription. I've continued taking the acid-blocker medication and have felt better every day! I'm getting a little stronger and heavier each day (still 10 lbs to go). Eating is fun again and the nausea really doesn't bother me anymore.
On 9/4 I started working again full time and it's gone well. On 9/9 I did my first jogging and on 9/12 I increased my biking up to 36 miles - and was able to ride with Robin as she finished the Auburn Century.

The first jog I did on 9/9 was special. It was on the Guadalupe Levy with my old running buddies at Rockwell Collins San Jose. Even Dick Kirkpatrick made a special visit to run. Don't worry, for me it was more like a fast walk, the guys either circled back or waited for me. These guys, and some of the gals, in the club, run the Napa-to-Santa-Cruz Relay each year. Tom has done it 14 times and this year became the only one to have run each of the 12 legs. Sadly, with the upcoming closing of the San Jose plant, this was the last year for the Relay team, as everyone must move to new employment.

But as we jogged, Tom reminded me that I started the company doing The Relay, and that the event's main purpose was supporting organ donating. Their statement is, "The transfer of the baton from runner to runner symbolizes the transfer of an organ from donor to recipient." Each year a special child or adult was honored as their need for an organ is fulfilled. This, the last year of the team's running, is also the year Bobby finally got the kidney needed. All these years supporting The Relay and organ donating finally became a reality for me and the team.

I want to leave you with something my friend, Monique Vandenberg, who is battling Leukemia, wrote on her blog (2/17/09), "DON'T WAIT TO GET SICK, OR FOR A TRAGEDY TO BOND MORE WITH YOUR LOVED ONES!!! Life is short....I know it's easy to say....but more often then not,,,,put the chores and "TO DO" list aside and make time for your family and friends :-))"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Relief, and Thanks for Your Encouragements

It was a great relief Friday night as the acid-blocker medication prescribed by the ER doctor worked great! I got some good sleep.
During the day I just had to remain calm and not get too "worked-up" about anything... which is where the anti-nausea medication would come in. By Sunday morning I was feeling much better and did a 2mi walk.

Today I talked more (which, as you know, is hard for me not too do) and didn't get too nauseous. My surgery wound is healing up good and I'm able to carry heavier things like Ariel which has been great bonding for us.

I have a GI specialist appointment tomorrow in San Francisco. I've had a lot of tests done and nothing strange has turned up. This is an answer to prayer. I'm a really healthy sick-feeling guy :)

The "free-air" thing doesn't seem related to the nausea. It went away about 24 days after surgery. The doctor was expecting more like 7. Turns out that a government study has showed that "skinny men" tend to keep the "free-air" for up to 18 days. Looks like I've set a record.

Another "record book" I might make is the CPMC Morbidity Council review of kidney donor surgery complications. Since there's only been 1 complication in last year's 99 living donor surgeries, I may be the 1 complication for this year.

Thanks for all the encouragements you've sent to me. In light of the many others who are having a difficult time, I encourage you to send some of your great support and prayers their way as well. There are fire victims trying to rebuild their lives. There are many of my friends facing job uncertainty with the closing of the San Jose Rockwell Collins site. And there are those fighting cancer or keeping it in remission. And many other struggles are out there...

Here are some great encouragements you gave me that may give others hope, too...

"F R O G Fully Reliant On God!"

Psalm 55:16, "I will pray to God with all my heart and He will keep me

"Today is the day the Lord has made...may you rejoice and be glad."

"Isn't it funny how athletes notice every little thing with their bodies?"

(to help me gain weight..) "Here's the recipe for chocolate covered bacon strips that one restaurant (Machine Shed) in Iowa sells at fairs this summer. It is a big hit at the fairs"

"since it might be an ulcer, you probably should not try the KFC 1200 calorie sandwich I suggested."

"Jeremiah 33:6 NIV, 6 " 'Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.'"

"He will be rewarded greatly for his sufferings, but I know it stinks to be in pain."

"Remember when were suffering in a long race and we tell ourselves this day will pass and tomorrow will come and I wont be in these shoes!"This will pass to"."

"God is allowing Ironman discomfort to give you an Ironman spirit to endure anything others will not in your future"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Good Experience at ER

Hi Everyone, a quick update: Bobby continues to feel great. I was feeling better and then got worse. Today is 4 weeks since surgery. Lot of nausea. Back on medical leave. Went to ER today. They think it might be an ulcer. Possibly caused by the stress of surgery and the aspirin prescribed. Trying medication tonight. Hoping it's not like last night. I appreciate everyone's encouragement and offering of help. God is good and has a purpose for everything. One of those may be to better handle the responses I've gotten from CPMC. God knows how to handle all situations... I'm not so good.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Prayers Answered! But Still Got The "Free Air" Blues

Troy here. 3 weeks since surgery. Still hanging in there :) You're notes and cards and prayers are so appreciated. You've made me smile so many times when I hear or read them :) It's really helped.

Glad to talk to Bobby the other day and hear he's doing so well. He's been doing some fishing, hanging with the family, playing video games and now building a radio-controlled plane. He couldn't go to the local fair however because he must stay away from crowds and infection. He also said you can't really notice the kidney under his skin. Because he's thin and the kidney is simply added on top of other organs, it was expected that an outline would be noticeable.

As for me, I went back to work (from home) part-time this week. I've still got the nausea and bowel problems. However, I'm glad it's me having difficulty rather than Bobby! I'm trying to gain weight but no real progress yet. The nausea makes food loose it's appeal. Robin is really helping, though. She's been giving me tea to calm my stomach before I eat. And she's making high-calorie foods. She got me these 300-calorie snack bars, high calorie protein shakes, flaxseed oil and bacon (which is a first for me). Turns out flaxseed oil has twice the fat of other oils. Even with all this, and minimal activity, the weight gain does not come easy. At 1lb/day it'll be 2 more weeks before I gain it back. But hopefully it'll pick up.

The gas/bowel discomfort makes it hard to sleep. The doctor is concerned about "free air". He says it's really rare. I'll get more X-rays today (which I opted for instead of a 3rd cat-scan - those things are equal to 175 X-rays!). Hopefully they will show less "free air". I feel like the problem isn't getting worse so that's good. The last thing I'd want to do is a 2nd surgery.

Fortunately, I've been able to talk to 3 people who have had kidney surgery (laparoscopic nephrectomies) recently. 1 was better in 3 days, but 1 took 4 weeks. The other, Jamie, well she's pretty unique :) Although they didn't have the nausea, the other symptoms seem similar. So I think my triathlete, eat-while-running, "Iron Stomach" is actually quite sensitive (see, I do have a sensitive side). I think I'll be better in a couple weeks.

about last week...
Last week I was admitted back into the hospital (CPMC) for tests and overnight monitoring. The concern was for a punctured intestine. The doctors' concerns decreased after Robin sent the request for prayers. Thank you so much! The cat scan showed "free-air" which is a concern but yet I wasn't that sick at all so the thinking changed to it being something else. While there, it was weird push'n an IV down the same hallways I paced 2 weeks prior. I hate being confined to a pole-on-wheels.. but there are great views of San Francisco and the Bay from the 6th floor! I was sure glad to get home, though, they don't let you sleep much in a hospital.

Would some of you pray for my hospital roommate, Raymond Swords? He had a liver transplant that is being threatened by disease. He has a family in Las Vegas.

Thanks, everyone. Robin & Anna are doing well. Ariel had a fever for just a day and is better now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Back in the Hospital - Praying for no Puncture

This is Robin writing on behalf of Troy. Today Troy had an appointment with the doctors at CA Pacific Med Center in SF. This was a planned appointment but we had them move it up to Friday since the nausea, weight loss, discomfort from gas and fatigue was persisting. Earlier today we were told that he could have a punctured intestine, which would require surgery, and that a CAT scan was needed to look for that possibility. After praying about it, I immediately asked our church to pray that it wouldn't be a punctured intestine. God is good and He answered that prayer and Troy doesn't have a punctured intestine!! They did find that there is air and fluid in the open areas within him. This is not a serious issue, thank the Lord, but it is not common...maybe 10% or less of kidney donors experience such a thing. They are keeping him overnight to see if an IV and antacid will help. Please pray that Troy can return to his old self physically. Mentally and spiritually he is strong and keeping his eyes on Jesus.

Thanks to all of you who are praying and have sent notes/emails of encouragement! We are so blessed!!