You might think giving away a kidney would slow 57-year-old athlete Kelly Parham down a little, but it hasn’t.
Just three weeks after donating his kidney to friend and fellow cyclist Peter Kite, Parham said he’s walking four or five hours a day to stay active until he is cleared to ride his bicycle again.
“All I can do right now as far as exercise is to walk,” Parham said. “I’ve been doing a ton of it.”
He’s also working to encourage others to consider becoming a living donor.
“If you’re healthy, there is no risk for the donor,” Parham said. “So like they say ‘God gave you two to give one away.’ That’s my motto now.”
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.
As is the case with most transplants, Kite’s two previous kidneys came from family members. But when Kite began to get sick again two years ago, doctors told him he’d need another kidney. Parham decided to see if he would be a match for his friend.
Parham, a Gainesville resident who is unrelated to Kite, turned out to be a better match than Kite’s own brother.
The men traveled to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., and had the transplant operation April 16.
Because of Kite’s numerous previous operations, doctors encountered a few more problems than they expected. What should have been a 9-to-10-hour surgery ended up lasting more than 14 hours.
Kite said his team of surgeons relayed the experience to him after he woke up.
After Parham’s kidney had been removed and transported into Kite’s operating room, doctors were still trying to clear scar tissue and locate Kite’s vital organs.
“He (the doctor) said at that point, for a split second, he thought ‘I can’t go any farther,’” Kite said. “‘I’ve got this kidney sitting here. I’ve got a body and I can’t find a spot for it.’ He looked at the team and said ‘We’re doing it. We’re going all the way.’”
Several hours later, doctors were able to attach Kite’s new kidney.
“My doctor said that 99.9 percent of the doctors in the world would have opened Pete up and closed him back up,” Parham said.
Kite said he feels “beyond blessed.”
Parham has been back in Gainesville for two weeks; Kite will remain in Baltimore until June 1.
Both men said they’re eager to get back on a bike. They’ll also continuing working with Kite’s nonprofit, Team Green, an organization that raises awareness and provides support and education for transplant patients and their families.
“Hopefully we can make other people want to do it,” Parham said. “We found out about a lot of statistics while we were up there. What’s sad, they say, is that even now the donor group that is losing momentum is the family members. They’re actually transplanting more nonfamily members’ kidneys than family members. It’s like the family members aren’t stepping up.”
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.
The men intend to raise money for the Johns Hopkins Transplant Foundation and its incompatible transplant program through charitable bike rides.
Parham said he aims to let people know how easy it is to donate a kidney.
“Anybody who’s healthy shouldn’t hesitate to do it,” Parham said. “And even if you’re not healthy, that’s a good excuse to get in shape, to be able to do something for somebody else.”