Transplant Athlete
Friday, December 30, 2005
  The Horror

OK, by now you all know, I've been fighting high blood pressure. As my training for RAAM has been heating up, I've been feeling light-headed after rides and that's my cue to start decreasing my blood pressure meds. I only have 30mg pills of the Procardia, so I skipped a day and then attempted to discontinue the medication. Not a good idea. I always have the worst withdrawal symptoms from blood pressure medication. Once, before my transplant, I had a batch of blood pressure patches go bad. I spent several hours (at 2am mind you) looking for the one CVS open 24 hours in Northern Virginia to get a new patch. The pain is so intense, I can't stand it.

At 1am, I couldn't stand it any longer and I cracked a 30mg pill in half and downed it. Yes, I know you're not supposed to just cut those time release pills in half, but I was desperate. I cracked the remaining half in two and I'll take one of those tonight and hopefully that will be the last Procardia I take until next fall. I think the Procardia was doing something funky to my system, affecting my heart rate when riding. I just went to check on the side effects of Procardia and look at that Anemia is listed as a rare side effect...That explains my hematocrit at 32%. Like I said in an earlier post, I get the rare side effects from medication. They also list "fluttering heartbeat" and "rapid heartbeat" as side effects, which would explain the "funky feeling" I have when riding.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2005
  Helluva Hilly Hundred and Frederick Century

The Helluva Hilly Hundred was a nice little ride starting from Potomac, MD. The day turned out to be warm and clear. I left the first rest stop a bit early and was able to make it to Mountville Rd (A short steep climb near Jefferson,Md) around the time the rest of the group caught up to me. Halfway up Mountville, we turned onto Marlu Ridge and made our way up to the top. There were beautiful views of the Potomac River and the Middletown Valley. This was a rare ride where I stopped for lunch with the group at Tresie's Pizza in Jefferson. Usually, I just down a couple of powerbars and take it easy for about an hour. We worked our way through the Middletown Valley and back south through Point of Rocks, MD. I overshot my turn on the way back to Potomac and went a little out of my way. The ride started at 8am and I got back to the car a bit before 5pm, the ride was 100 miles and 7000 feet of climbing.

Monday's ride started in Thurmont, MD and worked its way into Abbottstown, PA. I stopped at the first rest stop with the group for nearly an hour and when we got started again, my right knee was pretty tight and bothered me for the rest of the ride. I skipped lunch because I was worried that the knee would lock up. There wasn't much climbing, but it was gusting pretty bad. I took one wrong turn and ended up ironically in Detour, MD adding 4.5 miles to my ride. About 5 miles from the end, I thought I had a tailwind, sat up to read my cue sheet, and got hit by a gust of side wind that dropped me to the pavement, hard. I landed on my left elbow, bounced onto my back (camelback) and my head slammed into the pavement. My helmet took the impact and after taking an inventory to make sure I wasn't hurt, I proceeded on. The whole rest of the way, I kept thinking that the group was going to catch me becuase of my detour and my fall, but they showed up about 15 to 20 minutes later. My ride distance was 106 miles, ride start 8am end 4:45pm.


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Friday, December 16, 2005

I had a kidney transplant. My body recognizes the new kidney as a foreign object and tries to destroy it. I take drugs to weaken my immune system so that that doesn't happen. My doctor's thought it might be a good idea to see just how weak my immune system is, so I took the ImmunknowT blood test a little over a week ago.

An immuno-compromised individual (transplant recipient) should have a value between 226 and 524. My value was 114. The nurse told me that that is the lowest they've seen in any of their patients. This is a good indication that I am taking more medication (Prograf) than I need to be taking to suppress my immune system.

There is some concern that the medication(Prograf) is increasing my blood pressure and now that the doctors know they can lower it, they think that might also lower my blood pressure. That effect will be tough to see, since I started training for RAAM, my blood pressure has been dropping.

After thinking about what the American Red Cross had to say about my hematocrit, and thinking back over the past two weeks, I went in and had my blood checked by a lab. Looking back, I had been feeling like my hematocrit was in the low 30s, but I was ignoring the symptoms. I think this is a good time to point out that if you feel like you are going through your day with a "parking brake" on, or in my case, you are so tired that you are taking naps in the afternoon, you may have a kidney problem and you should get checked. Around the time that I started feeling fatigued, I had started baking my Grandmother's Christmas cookies. I assumed that I was tired because I was eating too much sugar (flash of energy and then a crash). It is very common to rationalize symptoms away and it takes something big to make us sit up and take notice and usually, by then, it is sometimes to late to do anything about it.


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Tuesday, December 13, 2005
  Denied Again

I tried to donate blood today, but the American Red Cross turned me away. They said my hematocrit was 32% and they don't take blood from anybody under 38%. If this sounds familiar it should. Back in July, I tried to donate blood and they turned me away, in that case, they said my hematocrit was 36%.

I looked at her and said, "Impossible. There's no way my hematocrit is 32%. I wouldn't be able to function right now." So she jabbed me again, drew blood up the little glass cylinder, and went to spin it down. She came back and said a co-worker analyzed my results and it was a 34. I had blood drawn a couple of days after the attempt in July and my hematocrit was 39%. I even went in there a bit dehydrated, because I knew excess fluid would drop my hematocrit.

The worst part is I was feeling fine when I went in there, I had plenty of energy (I rode a century on Sunday and rode for two hours this morning), then I left depressed and tired as if my hematocrit was actually that low...

One thing is for sure, this is going to be a sucky RAAM if my Hematocrit is really between 32 and 34.


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Monday, December 12, 2005
  Cobb Island Century

Yesterday's cetury was nice and flat. We left La Plata a little after 8am and wound our way down to Cobb Island, did a loop of the island and then headed back to La Plata. It was cold, but not freeze your waterbottle cold. I tend to just follow other riders so I don't have to mess with my cue sheet, and I followed Chris right past the first rest stop, then about 8 miles down the road I was dropped by Chris. I stopped to take off a layer of clothes and a few miles down the road the two of the tandems caught up to me and we caught Mike, and then we caught Chris about 55 miles into the ride. Chris blew past lunch, I stopped long enough to get half a powerbar down and Jeff stopped long enough to say hi to everybody at lunch.

Cobb Island was a nice little place, but its in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't help reflecting on my previous addresses. I've lived on Lake Hopatcong and Lake Lenape in New Jersey. I went to college in Hoboken alongside the Hudson River. I'm not even sure where the nearest body of water is that I'm legally allowed to swim in down here. Fairfax County has some rule about swimming in open bodies of water. I miss living on the water. Sailing, Swimming, the peaceful lap lap lap of water on a dock.

On my way back, I passed Ed and Mary about a mile away from Lunch. I paused to buy some water around 80 miles into the ride and Jeff caught up to me. We rode together most of the way back, but I started cramping and bonking and couldn't keep up. But I caught up to him again around the 95 mile mark when he missed a turn.

Chris was sitting in his car waiting for the group. Crista's group usually spends about an hour at lunch and then goes out to dinner after the ride. Right around 7 hours for 101 miles.


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Friday, December 09, 2005
  Solo RAAM 2006

Yesterday, I signed up for Solo RAAM 2006. I was very excited, yesterday. Today, I am concerned about my training and my training plan. I went in and doubled my hours on the plan and I may revise them upward as we get closer to the event. Don't get me wrong though, I am a quality over quantity type guy. I just feel my first stab at a plan didn't have enough hours in it to accomplish what I would need to do in a week.

I'm taking a serious look at my nutrition as well. I've been adding more and more fruits and vegetables (to get to the RDA), so hopefully I will be better fueled than last year. Anybody who has known me for more than 5 years knows that my diet used to be atrocious. I used to be in sales and ate many a meal in my car. Its tough to resist the call of the drive thru window, almost like there should be a 12 step plan for that. Weight wise, I'm at the lowest I've been in years. In fact, I was just a couple pounds lighter when my kidneys were failing in 2000. I had a tough time finishing a burger back then, I don't know if it was psychological or if my body was just fed up with the protein.

My next step is to organize this effort, volunteers, fundraisers, crew, publicity, etc. That needs to happen soon. If you've got special skills, drop me a line, I can use all the help I can get. Click on the link to the right to send me email.

I hope the RAAM broadcast comes on NBC soon. I'm anxious to see the footage. We didn't really take many pictures during the race, but we shot a heck of a lot of footage. We've requested the raw footage, but I doubt we'll see that until after the documentary airs.


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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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Warning Signs for Kidney Disease:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Burning or Difficulty when Urinating
  • Frequent Urination at Night
  • Blood in your urine
  • Cola or tea colored urine
  • Swellig of the eyes, ankles, or feet
  • Lower back pain unrelated to physical activity

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