It’s been over 10 months since my kidney donation and five months since my last entry, so I guess I should post another blog!
First of all, it’s the end of my “race season”. Yesterday, I completed a marathon (the Marine Corps Marathon), and now I will go into winter training mode. I had some highs and lows this season. But most of all, I consider it a highpoint that I was able to donate a kidney and still do triathlons and marathons and such. So, before I say anything else, I want it to be clear that I really, really do appreciate how lucky and blessed I and my recipient are.
Having said all that, here is some nitty gritty on our lives post-donation…
My stepdad (recipient) has continued to do well. He has stayed active, and he and my mom (both in their 70’s) continue to do projects on their boat and around their house, where they live down in Georgia. However, he has had a few hitches here and there. For one thing, he is on prednisone as part of his anti-rejection-drug regimen. I’m not sure what it does in the scheme of the other medications he has to take. But one bad side-effect to it is that he has gained a lot of weight.
The other issues he has had may simply have to do with his age, and may not be directly related to the transplant. He has had a circulatory problem in one leg, which caused him some pain. But his doctors had him wear a compression sock, and that seemed to help. Most recently, he had what seemed like a possible heart attack; however, when he went to the hospital and they did a stress test and so forth, they didn’t think it actually was a heart attack. So, they are just monitoring the situation now. Overall, he seems to be doing pretty well, and I am very thankful.
As for me, there are a few things to note. But I mention these things only because I want other prospective donors to have a full picture. –Not because I’ve had any really serious concerns.
On the good side, right after my last blog post, I had the highpoint of my triathlon season. I did a half-Ironman race (70.3 miles), and my time was better than the previous half-Ironman race I did last year (prior to donation). So, that was really amazing!
On the other side, the rest of my tri season was just so-so. I did fairly well in a couple of sprint triathlons and even got second in my age group at a really small local race. But I elected not to do two other races, because I just didn’t feel ready. In the case of one race, I had had a cold and injuries leading up to it. So, my training just wasn’t there. This was a big disappointment. But it can really happen to anyone and doesn’t have anything to do with my only-one-kidney status. Looking back, I sort of wish I had done the race anyway — just for the experience. But I was too caught up in the drive to do well, and I just couldn’t bring myself to race in a less-than-ready state. I wish I could have.
In addition, I continue to notice post-donation that my running ability has gone downhill. I ended up running two marathons this fall, and finished both of them in 4:40+. By comparison, I did a marathon last summer (pre-donation) in 4:07. Now, there are *many* factors that go into a marathon time, to include your training, the course, the weather conditions, etc. So, I can’t say my performance is completely tied to the kidney donation. But I do feel like it had something to do with it. I’m hopeful that this is just part of the body’s need for a year or so to rebound from the shock of losing a kidney. And, eventually, I will be back to normal. But I’m also willing to accept it if I’m just going to be slow and steady forever more. (I never was super-fast anyway). And, at least I can run, right?
There are two other things that may have been going on this season… One thing is that I have this minor nerve damage in my left thigh. I wrote about it in a previous blog post. This type of thing can happen during surgery. There are some nerve bundles in the area of your kidney that run down into your thigh and groin. One of mine was apparently damaged in the surgery. I conferred with my surgeon about it, and he mentioned that this can happen. I also found another donor who had this problem, only hers was much worse. I only notice it if I happen to rub the outer part of my left thigh. But what I don’t know is whether it is causing some kind of imbalance that is affecting other things. All my injuries this season (back, hip, knee) occurred on my left side. So, it sort of stands to reason that there might be a connection. But I really don’t know if there’s any scientific way to verify that.
The other thing I noticed this season is that I actually felt my blood pressure being high at times. They warn you when you donate a kidney that you need to be careful about your blood pressure and monitor it. (One of the kidney’s function is to help regulate blood pressure.) You need to be careful with your diet and cut back on sodium and other things that affect blood pressure. Unfortunately, I haven’t always done that. The funny thing is that at my six-month check-up, my sodium was low. And that was a concern, because I had a race coming up. As a triathlete, you tend to see salt as your friend during the hot, humid months, because you don’t want to lose too much sodium through sweating – and bonk. But I didn’t realize until later in the season that taking in extra sodium was really affecting me. And even something as simple as eating a handful of salty cashews can make my blood pressure shoot up. So, now I have one of those small blood pressure machines, and I check my blood pressure every so often. I’m going to try to be better about cutting out the things in my diet that can be harmful. And, next summer, I’ll just have to be careful.
This winter season is really a time for me to be nicer to my body, give my legs a break, get more rest, eat better, do some strength training, and seek some renewal. Overall, I think I’m pretty healthy, and my active lifestyle has left me in better shape than I would be otherwise. But sometimes, as an athlete, you can do more harm than good if you don’t give yourself a break, both mentally and physically. This year, it seemed like the more I obsessed about how well I was doing, the worse I actually did, and the less fun I had. Next year, I hope to be more focused on how lucky I am to do these things and not so concerned about how *well* I do them. There is a chance that I will go for the ultimate goal and try to do an Ironman race (140.6 miles) next year. I’m still not as emphatically sure about doing it as I would like to be. But if I do go for it, I really want to hold on to the idea that just doing it is the thing — not how well I do it. I also want to focus on effort instead of expensive gear and coaching, etc. I spent a lot of money this year; whereas next year, I’d like to put in more effort instead of money. You can have the best gear and training plan in the world, but without the effort, it won’t do you any good.
Until next time… -Ookgirl