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Giving a Kidney Fixed My Jump Shot - by Jim Sollisch

Five years ago, I gave my friend Joanne the gift of my left kidney.  There are consequences to giving away an organ at 53. One is that I now have a better jump shot.  For many years I took ibuprofen by the handful-four at a time, often three times a day. I play basketball and tennis, and in the years before I gave away my kidney.  I was constantly sore and stiff.  The ibuprofen kept my playing. But ibuprofen is processed by the kidneys, and overuse can damage kidney function.

When you offer to donate a kidney, you get a physical as comprehensive as an astronaut's.  They make you wear a blood-pressure monitor for 24 hours.  They send contrast dye into your kidneys.  They take 11 vials of blood. They measure your glomerular filtration rate, or GFR, which is your kidney's blood-cleansing capacity.  They take images of your other organs.  You get a psych evaluation.  But before all those tests, they interview you about your medical history.

Any diabetes in your family? No. Cancer of the kidneys or liver?  No. What prescription drugs do you take? None. How about over-the-counter drugs? Some ibuprofen.  How often? Most days. How much? Ten or 12.

The nephrology resident doing the interview put down his glasses and said, "That's a boatload of ibuprofen.  Your kidneys may be compromised."  He was wrong. My GFR turned out to be 93%. (Normal is 90%or above.)

After I was approved, the head of the transplant unit at the Cleveland Clinic said to me, "If you do not promise to stop taking ibuprofen, I will cancel this thing. You're going to have one kidney-and taking ibuprofen with one kidney is dangerous.

Funny, I didn't have to give up alcohol(processed by the liver) or other drugs I might need in the future (also processed by the liver). I just had to give up ibuprofen.  I didn't have to think long. "Of course, " I said.

Six weeks after surgery, I returned to basketball and tennis.  I didn't miss my kidney but I sure missed my ibuprofen.  I was sore as hell every time I played.  After a year or so, I went to see an orthopedist.  Turns out my hip was shot.  Bone on bone.  He said it had probably been bad for years.  Hidden by massive doses of ibuprofen. So I traded a kidney for a new hip.

The new hip required rehab. The first thing the physical therapist said to me was, :You have the hamstring flexibility of a 92-year-old"-and he meant my good leg.  Over the next year, I got to know my hip flexors and my core.  I learned to really stretch. Soon I was doing weight training while balancing on a half ball.

I started waking up pain-free the morning after I'd played basketball.  That hadn't happened in 25 years.  I marveled at how my body worked.  Here at the upper edge of middle age, years of taking my body for granted.  I was in awe of how it could still renew itself.

My kidney grew in strength and did the work of two.  My hamstrings became pliant again.  And my jump shot got better.  I was more aware of my body then I had been since adolescence.  I lost 20 pounds.  I began to celebrate every minute on the basketball court.  At times I am overcome with a sense of gratitude so profound, I stop at midcourt and take an extra breath.

I have learned that there is a spirituality in the physical, that God can reveal himself between the lines of a court, and that when the systems in your body pump and work, they do so in harmony with nature.

People say if you love some-thing, you should set it free.  When I set a part of me free, I learned to love what was left behind.



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