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Author Topic: Kidney donation and post-surgery energy/athletic performance?  (Read 983 times)

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Offline pbandjess

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Hi, everyone,

I've been lurking on this site for the last several weeks while going through my living donor evaluations.  I am preparing to donate my kidney (altruistically) this summer. I think what scares me the most is the potential impact on my energy and athletic performance post-donation. I am in my 30s now, so not quite as competitive as I was throughout my 20s, but I am still very active and like to train for multiple endurance events throughout the year. I especially enjoy running road races (half-marathon & marathon distance) and Spartan races such as the Tough Mudder. Also, though my interest in CrossFit has somewhat waned over the years, I'd still like to participate in it casually (or at least continue to lift heavy). 

For those of you were active and athletic prior to the surgery, how quickly did you bounce back?  Were you able to regain most (if not all) of your energy, strength, and endurance in the long term?  Is there still the potential to enjoy plyometric/explosive workouts at a serious level?  Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I like to envision that I'll be back to my regular cardiovascular activities within a few days.  Actually, I had some of my reproductive organs laparoscopically removed a few years ago due to a non-cancerous teratoma, and though the medical team estimated a recovery time of 2+ weeks, I was back to running the next day. I don't do so well with "taking it easy."  ;D 

Thanks in advance for any insight!

Offline Fr Pat

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Re: Kidney donation and post-surgery energy/athletic performance?
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2018, 04:39:07 AM »
     HI. I donated a kidney 16 years ago, at age 56, by the open-cut method. I had not been very athletic previously, except for long walks, but started doing a little jogging to help in recovery. Then I got enthused to try to get all the way up to 5k (almost impossible) in order to take part in the 5k for donors and recipients at the 2004 Transplant Games in Minneapolis. I did it, and then kept going, all the way up to Marathons. Now at 72 I still do one or two half-marathons a year (slow, a bit over 3 hours) and am in good health.
     Some athletic donors do get back to full activity in a month or more, but most seem to take a longer time. No two donors recover the same way. Your hope to get back to normal "in a few days" seems wildly over-optimistic (from the experiences I have read over the years.) You can progress gradually, but it would be wiser to aim for a few months recovery. Some donors do return to very strenuous activity (Iron-Man, weight lifting, etc.), but not right away.
     Also keep in mind that not ALL kidney donors recover well. Some have serious long-tern fatigue problems. Some suffer nerve damage. And of course a few have died during or shortly after the surgery. So there ARE risks involved. The many wonderful success stories might give us the impression that ALL donors recover just fine, but that is not the case.
     If you post also at the FaceBook page of Living Donors on Line you will get many more responses, and at that site there are both great donor athletes and donors with long-term problems.
     This summer, God willing, I will take part in the Transplant Games in Salt Lake City and run the 5k, 1,500 meter and 100 meter. Most of the athletes are recipients, but there are usually 150 -200 living donors there as well. Info at www.transplantgamesofamerica.org
     Fr. Pat

Offline elephant

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Re: Kidney donation and post-surgery energy/athletic performance?
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2018, 08:03:57 AM »
Dear pbandjess,

I donated at age 47, and now nearly seven years later I'm still running, including speedwork, and powerlifting.  So yes, you can return to  pre-surgical fitness.  If you are fit, you will likely have an easier recovery.  But please don't try returning to your workouts in a few days.  This is major surgery and you only have one chance to heal properly.  There will be lifting restrictions, you will have abdominal sutures, and fatigue.  I was home after two nights, walking 2 miles by day 4 or 5 with easy stretching, and light jogging after a week when I was cleared by the doctor.  It took me several months to return to full speed running, lifting and core work.  Patience is important, and you can not just 'push through'! 

Love, elephant

Offline AdrianFR

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Re: Kidney donation and post-surgery energy/athletic performance?
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2018, 11:16:56 AM »
I was 35 when I donated 2 and a half years ago. I have always been active and work out about 5 times per week with running and weightlifting. After I donated my kidney I followed the doctor instructions which were not to lift anything heavier than 10 lbs. for 6 weeks and to only do light walking. Walking really helped me heal and recover. I started jogging and light weightlifting at around the 3 month mark and I felt back to full strength at about the 6 month mark.
Everyone is different but I would recommend you don't over do it with activity and or lifting as you can have a really bad setback in your recovery.

Just take it a day at a time and listen to your body. This is major surgery and it's wise to think of your long-term health and well being.


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