I grew up in a sports oriented family; it is no surprise then that my goal in life has been to participate in sports! My ambition and dream as far back as I can remember was to play hockey for my country. Therefore, being diagnosed with a chronic kidney ailment at the age of 17 years, and being told by the doctors that I had to stop eating non veg ( not stress the kidney with an overload of protein) and stop playing sports or else I would die in 5 years, came as a complete shocker. I was outraged and told my doctor that I’d rather die on the hockey field than not play at all. With a prognosis of a short life, I threw myself completely in the direction of fitness. Treatment began immediately with steroids and other medications to help keep my parameters in check, and kidneys functioning as normally as possible.
Being a personal trainer by the age of 22 years, I had to study and be informed about various aspects of health and ﬁtness, which enabled me to understand my ailment. My active lifestyle, exercise, diet, all played a vital role in maintaining the health of my kidneys. These helped my kidneys to function normally, with medication being tapered to a bare minimum, till they were stopped completely.
However, 11 years later, I got malaria. Unable to fight this virus, my body buckled, and my kidneys called it quits. After undergoing dialysis for a month, I underwent a transplant in July 2011, with the donor being my father.
Life after transplant wasn’t as tough as I had envisioned it. I was back at work within 4 months and playing sport, working out, even travelling abroad. The only tough part was avoiding non vegetarian food (once again, keeping a check on the protein levels). Within three months of my transplant, I had competed in the November 2011 All India Transplant Games, and won gold medals in 100mtr, 200mtr, 400mtr and Table tennis, which I won consecutively for three years in a row. Had the doctors held true to their promise of sponsoring me for the World Transplant games if I won at the national level, I would have definitely won a few golds at the World Transplant games, 2013, since I was at the peak of my career and performance. That, today, remains an unfulfilled dream for lack of sponsors. I do hope that athletes who have undergone transplants are given their due, and corporates / individuals sponsor them, showing the world what we are capable of. In 2012, I was invited by the Sri Lankan cricket team to train them for a month. Realizing that I was a kidney transplant patient, and yet so fit, bowled them over.
Just when I had settled and come to terms with this new life, there began a gradual rise in my creatinine (reason unknown) and 5 years later, my transplanted kidney failed. This time, I was faced with a major challenge: Dialysis for the rest of my Life. Once again, life took a new turn; Dialysis every alternate day, with its restrictions and complications! It was a challenge, and the ﬁrst 3 months were very tough. The body once again had to adjust to the new treatment. My weight dropped from 78kgs down to 65kgs as weakness set in, and new parameters had to be considered. However, there was never a point when I was sad; never a time when I questioned God and asked “WHY ME”? My spirits remained high even though my body weakened.
I have always believed that things happen for a reason. So, I made up my mind to accept the cards that I had been dealt with, and decided that I will play till the end!!!
The game changer, as I see it, was the fact that from the first dialysis itself, I decided to walk back home after my session. It was because of my earlier fitness regime that my body was conditioned to ﬁnish a 1.6km walk immediately after my four-hour session, while others would be struggling to get back on their feet due to fluid loss, dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, or erratic BP.
Since I am an athlete, I wasn’t satisfied with just walking, and well into my third month, I decided to start with some exercise and light weight training on my non-dialysis days. This worked wonders for my body; I got stronger, ﬁtter, healthier, which surprised even my doctors!
It was time to push myself further, and my next step was to start playing football and hockey. I returned to working as a personal trainer, challenging myself, played sports, which made me happy, and has made me a positive person. Today I look just like the other players, and am as strong as they are. I am not as fit as they are; however, I am in the best health possible for a dialysis patient. There is NOTHING that they can do and I can’t, and Yes, I have to be careful about my ﬁstula, my dietary needs and I make sure I do not compromise on the time I need to rest!
With regard to my professional life, I wake up at 5.15 am, start training my ﬁrst client at 6.20 am, and work till 1 pm. Then, I go for my dialysis. Basically, life is as normal as it can be, even while on dialysis.
My Mantra is simple: The mind is the strongest weapon, and if you believe you are sick, you will be sick; if you believe you are strong, you will be strong, and nothing can hold you back!!!
Lessons to be learnt – reasons why my transplant failed:
- I should NOT have resumed work after 3 months. Instead, I should have waited for a minimum of 6 months, even more if so required, for the body to recover and adjust to the new kidney.
- Maintaining a low salt diet became very tough, since I was single then. Work left me with no time to cook at home, and I ended up eating outside.
- My doctor changed the brand of immunosuppressants from international to local. I should have questioned the change and stuck to the brand that was working for me.