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..


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