Wednesday, December 7, 2022

A group of organ donors is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this week. They all have one kidney.

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“The rest of us were joking that we’d like to carry their bags for them, and Sarah said, ‘Hey, come and join us — you’re all invited,’ ” McLaughlin, 54, recalled.

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“We thought, ‘How about if we use this climb to raise awareness and show everyone that you can still lead a healthy and active life if you donate a kidney?’ ” stated McLaughlin, a former school soccer coach who lives in Seattle.

“It didn’t take long before we had 22 kidney donors signed up to make the trip,” he stated.

The group hopes the trek, which is able to start Friday, will assist dispel the notion that donors can’t reside full lives with one kidney, stated Kidney Donor Athletes founder Tracey Hulick, who donated a kidney to a stranger in May 2017.

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“There’s a false narrative out there that you’re sickly after your surgery, and that’s not true,” stated Hulick, 43, of Bend, Ore. “In fact, most of us actually became healthier after we donated. We pay more attention to our diets, and we get more exercise.”

“At Kilimanjaro, we’re going to be 22 strong, using our bodies to show that we can do way more than run half a marathon,” added Hulick. “And we’re going to show that if we can do it, others can, too.”

The group — which named its journey the One Kidney Climb — hopes to achieve Kilimanjaro’s 19,341-foot volcanic summit at dawn on March 10, World Kidney Day.

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“We’ve hired an outfitter to carry our equipment and cook for us so all we have to do is walk up the mountain,” stated McLaughlin, noting that though no technical climbing is concerned, it nonetheless takes a excessive stage of health to complete the tough 42-mile round-trip trek up and down the mountain’s Lemosho route.

Hikers undergo 5 local weather zones, starting in lush farmland, persevering with via rainforest and ending on the frigid summit on the rim of one of the most important dormant volcanoes on the planet, he stated. The elevation is so excessive close to the height, some climbers discover it difficult to even stroll at a really gradual tempo.

“This is a way for us to display a powerful message of advocacy and hopefully convince more people to become donors,” McLaughlin stated.

There are greater than 100,000 individuals ready for his or her flip to return up on the kidney transplant record, and 13 die day by day ready, in accordance with the National Kidney Foundation.

McLaughlin determined to donate one of his kidneys to a stranger in January 2019 as payback for donor tissue he’d obtained in 2016 following an accident on his bicycle.

“During surgery, they found out that my wrist needed to be reconstructed, and they used some bone and tissue from a deceased donor,” he stated.

After he had healed, McLaughlin stated he did some soul-searching and puzzled how he might pay it ahead.

“I met a gal in Seattle who had donated her kidney, and after I heard her story, I thought, ‘Okay, this is it. This is what I’m going to do,’ ” he stated. “I called the University of Washington and applied to become a donor.”

Six months later, his utility was accredited, and he was matched with a younger father of two from the Puget Sound space who was on the ready record for a brand new kidney.

The transplant was profitable, and McLaughlin was finally in a position to meet the recipient of his kidney for espresso.

“He was so thankful, and I was happy that I’d been able to give him some healthy years,” he stated.

Sadly, his recipient handed away this 12 months from an sickness not associated to the transplant, McLaughlin stated.

“It’s heartbreaking, but I’m glad that my donation gave him some extra time with his family,” he stated. “I wouldn’t change what I did for anything.”

Other kidney donors in his climbing group echo that sentiment.

Patricia Graham, a registered nurse from Boulder, Colo., grew to become a donor for a stranger in November 2017 as a result of she figured if she wanted solely one kidney, “Why not let someone else have the other?” she stated.

“I was happy to do it — somebody else needed it more than I did, and it just didn’t seem like that big of a deal to give mine,” stated Graham, 46, who is the founder of Colorado’s One Kidney Club. She doesn’t know the id of her recipient.

“All I know is it went to a woman around my age in Texas and as soon as she received it, it started working immediately,” she stated.

Graham, who has all the time loved mountaineering, knew she wished to go on the Kilimanjaro journey as quickly as she heard about it, she stated.

“I’ve never done anything like this, I’m into day hiking and yoga,” Graham stated. “But this is such a great way to raise awareness. I’m hoping we can do a flash mob dance at the summit and make it go viral.”

Diana Pratt, 61, stated she would like to see a video of that. She was the recipient of Tracey Hulick’s kidney on the day earlier than her birthday in May 2017.

Pratt, who lives in Colorado Springs, was identified with kidney illness in 2014 and was about to be placed on dialysis when she obtained phrase in 2017 {that a} reside donor had turned up and can be a superb match.

Her husband, Herbert Pratt, had signed up for a nationwide kidney donor pairing program when it was decided that he wasn’t a very good match for her, she stated.

“When he did that, and he was found to be a good match for somebody else, that kicked off a search for a good match for me,” Pratt stated. After her transplant, she requested if she may very well be put in contact together with her donor, and Hulick accepted her outreach, she stated.

“We’ve gotten together a couple of times since then, and every year on the anniversary of my transplant, we shoot each other an email,” she added.

When Pratt came upon that Hulick was planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in March, she wasn’t shocked, she stated.

“To me, she’s selfless, and so are all of the other donors out there,” Pratt stated. “When you have kidney disease, you’re always tired. After the transplant, it was like a light switch went on. I couldn’t believe the renewed energy I had.”

“I’ll never forget Tracey and what she did for me,” she stated. “I feel like a new woman.”

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