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Cyclist to donate kidney to fellow bicyclist

POSTED: April 3, 2013 12:16 a.m.

When Peter Kite started riding a bicycle to improve his health several years ago, he had no way of knowing just how much the activity would help.

Kite, 44, of Dawsonville, was born with a congenital defect that caused his kidneys to fail at an early age. Over the years, he’s had 31 surgeries and two kidney transplants.

After his second transplant, Kite developed an infection that made him too ill to exercise. He gained more than 30 pounds that year and was encouraged by his doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to lose weight and get active. So he started dieting and riding a bike.

In 2005, he formed Team Green, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and provides support and education for transplant patients and their families. In 2008, he rode his bike across the state to raise awareness for the organization.

While preparing for his ride across the state, Kite became close friends with Kelly Parham, co-owner of NorthStar Bikes in Dawsonville.

Kite went on long rides with Parham and the other cyclists at the shop “religiously.”

Kite’s hobby left him in good health; he often racked up 100 miles or more each week on his bicycle.

But two years ago, he started getting sick more often. He had several urinary tract infections, and his doctors found that his donor kidney had signs of damage.

“I felt anxious, terrified, mad,” Kite said. “I felt like, as all sick patients, that we should have done something to change our lifestyles, even if we live a good lifestyle.”

Last summer, his doctors determined that he needed another kidney.

Kite told his cycling friends about his prognosis and asked them to pray for him.

“Then Kelly goes, ‘I’m gonna be your donor,’” Kite said. “I said ‘Yeah right.’”

But Parham called Kite’s transplant coordinator at the hospital and began testing to see if his kidney would be compatible with Kite’s body.

As is usually the case, Kite’s family members served as living kidney donors for his two previous transplants. His mother donated one of her kidneys when he was 13 years old, and his aunt donated after the original donated kidney failed in 2004.

Before the compatibility evaluations came back, Parham told Kite that he was going to beat his other prospective donors and be the closest match. Kite’s brother, who was also tested for the transplant, was expected to be Kite’s best option because the two are related.

“Son of a gun, Kelly beats him,” Kite said, laughing. “My brother scores a 92 and Kelly scores a 97. That doesn’t happen, they say. It’s very rare.”

The transplant is scheduled for April 16 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Each week, the hospital calls Parham to be sure he still wants to go through with the transplant.

Parham said he never would have bothered going through all the tests if he didn’t intend to follow through.

Parham said his motivation for donating his kidney comes from simply knowing it’s the right thing to do. He said he feels honored to be able to help his friend — even if it makes their friendship a little more sentimental.

“(Kite) says he can’t say thank you enough,” Parham said. “And I say ‘OK, Pete, stop. Let’s not get all mushy about it. Let’s just get it done and get it over.’”

After the transplant is over and they’ve both recovered, Parham said he plans to keep riding with Kite.

Parham, a competitive endurance athlete, said the doctors tell him he’ll still be able to be as active as he has been because he’s healthy. But even if he does have to slow down, Parham said he’s not worried about it.

“I’ve had my run,” Parham said. “I’m 57 ... it’s time to grow up.”

Kite said that he knows from experience the first year after getting a transplant is the hardest, but he doesn’t think his life is going to change very much after the surgery. He’ll still be busy spreading awareness and offering support to those who need it.

He’ll still work with Team Green, to raise awareness about organ transplants and becoming a donor. He’ll still attend cycling events and raise money to send children who are pre- and post-transplant patients to summer camp. He might even ride across the state again.

Kite also hopes to be involved in a documentary film about the transplant. The filmmaker, Gainesville native Jake Burke, is attempting to find donations to fund the production of the documentary. More information about the project, “Cycle of Life,” can be found at www.kickstarter.com.

Kite said he hopes the film will help to spread his message and educate others about organ transplants and how easy it is to become a donor.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are more than 94,000 people currently waiting to receive a donor kidney. Last year, an average of 13 people died each day waiting for a donor.

While Kite doesn’t expect his life to change dramatically after the transplant, he said he’s more certain of his purpose in life now — to help other people.

“He’s saving my life so I can get back on my bicycle and ride,” Kite said. “So I can continue helping people and supporting people and to grow with people.”


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