David Cole is a kidney patient and transplant recipient who directs the annual Raven Rock Ramble bike ride.
I started cycling in earnest 1987, shortly after a volleyball-induced knee injury took me out of running. I started riding in local group rides and centuries and developed decent strength and speed over time, such that by 1997 I set a new personal record in the Tour de Moore, finishing the 102.4 miles in under 4:30. Shortly thereafter a routine physical exam detected red blood cells and protein in my urine. One test led to another, and a kidney biopsy confirmed that I had a condition known as IgA Nephropathy. From there began a slow physical decline, with the most immediate symptom being leg cramps. By the summer of 2000 it was clear that I would be needing a transplant, and by November 2000 I was sufficiently anemic that I got a prescription for EPO.
My sister Laura agreed to be my donor, and we underwent surgery on March 7, 2001, just before I otherwise would have had to have started dialysis. I had some of the ups and downs associated with transplants (rejection, infection, etc), but by Memorial Day weekend I was back on my bike and managed an 8-mile ride.
I never expected I’d recover my speed and conditioning so quickly. I was riding metric centuries by July and full centuries by September, and without the first quiver of leg cramps. I began to remember why I enjoyed cycling so much, and would ride for the simple joy of feeling my body move and the bike respond. God, it’s great!
The average transplant lasts only 10 years. I’m hoping for more, but I realize my time to enjoy cycling may be limited. My response is to make the most of it, ride when I can, and savor every moment. I encourage, indeed urge, you to do the same.