April 26

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Getting From Chronic Disease to Gold Medal Success

I love sport and always have.

As a teenager I regularly played Soccer, rugby, handball, racquetball, boxing, Gaelic football.

I was one of the boys who never missed Physical Education in school and always attended training sessions.

Maybe I love sports because I come from a sporting family. The reality might be closer to the fact that having 4 sisters I was just delighted to get out of the house!

When It came to looking at colleges I knew what I wanted and I went for it. I traveled from Ireland to the UK to study for a Degree in Sports & Fitness Studies. I loved the course and made great friends.

All was going to plan.

The plan, however, started to dissolve during my second year of study.

It started innocuously with headaches and blurred Vision. The end result was chronic end stage renal failure or kidney failure.

An unbelievable shock. I was a sports student who loved participating in sport.

Essentially I went from a sports student to someone with a chronic illness in the space of 10 days. 

While in hospital I thought of breaking up with my girlfriend, finishing college and the belief I would never participate in sport again.

Thankfully none of the three initial thoughts lasted long. I got back with my then girlfriend and finished my college degree. 

Getting back to sport took a lot longer.

Recovery, and learning about life without working kidneys, was a slow and painful process. The learning curve was steep. 

Haemodialysis was not easy, a new diet with severe liquid restrictions was challenging but dealing with what seemed like a new body was the worst.

Luckily, within 2 years, in the year 2000, I received a Kidney transplant.

While recovering I heard about the World Transplant Games being held in Kobe Japan the following year, 2001.

At the time my thinking, with the doctor's blessing, was that my body had set me enough challenges, it was time I set my body a few. 

I decided to join the Irish Kidney Association, and the Irish Team, going to the Games.

I was going as an athlete not a patient and this was a very important distinction. 

I did win a couple of medals but more importantly I learnt I could challenge my body.

Equally importantly I met people who became role models. These people had different mindsets and attitudes which I knew I needed to adapt. Up to that point the only people with kidney failure I knew were in their 60’s and 70’s.

I went to other Games and although I loved competing, and winning, it was the social aspect that was the real prize.

The team members I traveled with and the interaction with the other teams from around the world were always inspirational and life affirming.

On top of that the feeling we were honoring our donor family and the health care practitioners who keep us so healthy during the difficulties in living with Kidney disease.

One of my favorite memories is winning the 100m sprint at the European Transplant & Dialysis Games which were being held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2010.

In front of friends and family I received my Gold medal while the Irish Flag was raised and the national anthem played. A proud moment and, at the time, the pinnacle of my recovery from kidney disease.

My friends humorously called me the "Fastest Sick Person in Europe." Which I found intriguing and, I guess, true!

  



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  1. Great work Darren! I especially love the affirmations section, have taken note of them!
    I think you should consider setting up some sort of sports/well-being camp. You have all the skills and sure people always love to go to Westport!
    Anyway, let me know when you’re finished updating the site and I will pass on the link, very happy to share

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I also run a private support group for people suffering kidney disease. Through this group you will have access to myself, and people with similar health issues. This group works as a supportive environment to promote tips, tactics and information to aid in improving your health and quality of life.