by Craig Plath
I have always had a love-hate relationship with running. The problem is that I’m slow, could never pace myself very well and generally gave up too easily. Three years ago, I decided to get serious about my health and run more consistently, even through the winter months. Every fall, I ran in a 5K charity race called the Zombie Run and was starting to show moderate improvements. While the race was a challenge, I always finished and thought that was good enough.
Then, my world came crashing down. In January 2017, my beloved wife of 25 years was diagnosed with kidney failure. We were terrified about would happen next. When the doctors indicated that she would need to start dialysis within six months and that her best hope for survival was a kidney transplant—preferably from a living donor—I didn’t even hesitate. I remember saying to the doctor: “I’m sitting right here. I will be her donor. How do we get started?” I wasn’t going to accept anything but success. My response caught my wife off guard and she was speechless. I had no idea what the odds were that I could be a match, but I was determined to do everything in my powerto make it happen.
That’s when our real journey began. We had to drastically change our diet, with the biggest change coming in the form of an extremely low sodium intake of 1500 to 2000 mg per day. We also watched other nutrients and our caloric intake closely. I was hoping I would be a match as her donor, and if I was, I didn’t want to give the doctors any reason to reject me. I started to get serious about all aspects of my health and poured myself into my running.
Previously, I had been running about three miles, two to three times a week. Now, I was running five to six miles at a time, three or four times per week. Between the changes to our diet and my renewed motivation, the weight started falling off. In six months, I dropped over 50 pounds and my performance increased like never before. My body was able to handle the strain much better and I was noticing health benefits everywhere. I no longer needed blood pressure or cholesterol medications. My resting pulse rate dropped from 76 in March to 48 by July. At 47 years old, my pace per mile was faster than it was in my 20s.
The doctors confirmed that I was a match and could be my wife’s donor. In the fall, I ran my annual charity 5K in a time that was light-years faster than any previous year, and five days later my wife and I went into surgery.
Surgery for donors is relatively easy. I have four laparoscopic incisions on my left abdomen, all less than an inch long and a four-inch incision above my pelvic area, which looks remarkably like a C-section (of course, that’s what I’m going to tell anyone who asks what it is). The recipient’s surgery is far more extensive, but takes about the same amount of time—three to four hours.
We both came through the surgeries with flying colours. My kidney is so effective for my wife that it’s working even better for her than it did for me. Her creatinine levels are lower than the normal range for a healthy, adult female and within days it was already operating at 86% efficiency (we had been told that this could take weeks). Her energy is returning, her blood pressure is healthy and she’s ready to get on with living. As for me, even though I can’t run for four to six weeks post-surgery, or lift anything heavier than 10 pounds, I don’t care, because I still have the love of my life with me.