Friday, October 19, 2012

Inspirational Stories: Running after a Kidney Transplant

Anna and me at
The Legend Trail Runs
The running community is full of amazing stories and people who have overcome serious obstacles to become the runners that they are today. When we hear stories like this on television or in magazines we don't realize that there are equally incredible stories within the group of people that we see each week on the roads and trails. When the stories do come out, they are both surprising and inspirational. 

This week is an important milestone for one of my running friends. Her name is Anna, and she is not only a fellow runner but also a fellow blogger (check out her blog titled "Embody"at ). If you saw Anna, you would just see an incredibly healthy looking and vibrant young woman. You would never guess what she had gone through to become the runner that she now is. This week is the third anniversary of her receiving a kidney transplant. I thought her story was inspirational and was absolutely ecstatic when she agreed to share it with us in a guest post. I hope you enjoy her story: 

I hated running as a kid. If I walked into my middle school gymnasium for P.E. and saw ten minutes’ time on the big clock used for basketball games, I knew I was in trouble. Ten minutes of running. Straight. Ugh. I was not an athletic kid, or an athletic young adult. In my 20’s I began practicing a vigorous style of yoga that seemed to suit my stubborn, unrelenting personality; an advanced yoga practice requires not only some athletic ability, but endurance and patience as well…but I still wouldn’t have called myself an “athlete.”  And running never crossed my mind.

I suppose even during my time as a hardcore yogi, I was setting myself up to become a motivated and dedicated runner. What drew me to yoga was its ability to help me cope and de-stress while moving my body, and it was nice to have a community of like-minded folks I could connect to. Running fills that space now, but the activity itself means less than its function as a tool to facilitate placing one foot in front of the other when even that seems impossible.

Three years ago, on October 9, 2009, I walked into St. Mary’s Hospital for a kidney transplant. I’d been diagnosed at 25 with an auto-immune disease of my kidneys, and within a year of that diagnosis I’d had to start dialysis to stay well. At first I continued to work, to go to school, and to teach and practice yoga. But I was getting sicker all the time, and eventually I quit my job and withdrew from my classes at MSU. I became reclusive and inconsolable. I spent 5 years on dialysis waiting for a new kidney, which is typical for a patient in Michigan. Many patients die every year waiting for an organ that matches them, which is why it is so important to register with the Gift of Life Foundation to donate your organs and tissues-- if it wasn’t for an anonymous donor, I would have never received my transplant and quite possibly died waiting.

Walking into the hospital that day was the single most terrifying thing I have ever done. I spent 11 days there in recovery, uncertain that my new transplant would be able to start working well enough to get me healthy again. There were a lot of tests, and I was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t keep food down and I was miserable. I couldn’t see much outside my hospital window, but I knew it was Fall and that I was missing my favorite season.

Anna, just out of anesthesia, with her mom

When I was able to return home, it took me months to get well, and I thrived on making tiny advances like being able to brush my own teeth for the first time, being able to get myself out of bed, and making it up a flight of stairs without having to crawl on my hands and knees. One big day I walked from my front steps down to the corner of our street and back on my own, a quarter of a block. This year I ran 2 half marathons and am getting ready for a third…it kind of puts things in perspective a little.

At Legend trail run
At first I didn’t think about my transplant much when I ran, other than how I hoped I was inspiring people with debilitating illnesses to get up and move. I wanted to be an example. Most of what I remember about my time in the hospital is a mish-mash of intense pain, discomfort, and fear, and at first I let those feelings dominate my recovery. I was always afraid that I would get sick again, or my new kidney would fail, so I proceeded cautiously into the world of physical fitness. I used running as a way to distract me from those memories, and I would blast my headphones and "check out." Then, somehow, I became an athlete.

In January of 2011, I joined Team Playmakers, a local running and walking club here in Lansing, Michigan. I met a lot of great people that helped me along as a newbie runner. I competed in my first sprint triathlon and twelve 5K races. I also ran my first 8K distance and swam my first mile in open water. 

In May of this year, I ran my first half marathon,  at Bayshore, and my second in early September (the Capital City River Run). I tried out trail running and am heading to beautiful Mackinaw Island next weekend to run my third and final half marathon for this year at the Mackinaw Great Turtle Half Marathon . Right after that, I’m heading to Chicago to run in a huge race called The Hot Chocolate Race, where everyone gets chocolate fondue at the end!

Finishing first half marathon at Bayshore  2012
Now I run music-free, and I don’t mind being inside my own head so much. I still use running to help me de-stress and cope with life, but I don’t feel like I’m fighting so hard anymore. I used to feel like everything, even running, was a matter of life and death. Now, if I’m running, I know it’s because I’m alive, at least for the moment. Life doesn’t come with guarantees, so I trust my body and its signals, and I’ve learned that while getting outside my comfort zone is, well, uncomfortable, it is also necessary to move forward.

Second Half Marathon: CCRR 2012

Every year when this early part of October comes around, I try to spend a bit more time paying attention to the things that I often take for granted. I breathe the fresh Fall air or hold a soft kitty, hearing their purr. On this day in 2009, I was fighting to get off an IV of morphine so I could go home, and I had months of a grueling recovery ahead of me. I try to remember that time at St. Mary’s, instead of forgetting, and I allow myself to accept the experience as a part of my story. It may be behind me, but it is still part of the path I am taking to move forward. Whatever way that path ends up going, I hope to do it running.

If that is not an amazing story, I do not know what is! As you are out there doing your training this fall, think of those people who may just be wishing and hoping that they can be out there doing that someday. Be inspired!! 


  1. Thanks for sharing Anna!

  2. Very inspiring story! What a remarkable young woman.

  3. We currently have a kidney donor who is willing to donate kidney, if you are interested kindly contact for more inquiries

  4. Thanks it is mind-blowing article...Exercise keeps health good...kidney are the main filtering system that the human body has got...manipal hospital has did many operation success with good out come and Kidney transplantation cost in India is also very affordable


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