Participant Feature: Q & A with Jason Dunkerley and Colleen Hayes

Paralympic athlete Jason Dunkerley has represented Canada on the track at four Paralympic Games. Most recently, he and guide runner Josh Karanja won bronze at the London Paralympic Games in the 1500 metres and silver in the 5000 meters. In early March 2013, Jason donated a kidney to his wife, Colleen, who suffers from chronic kidney disease.

Jason and Colleen will be walking the 5km race on April 28th. Read on to learn more about their experience with kidney disease and how physical activity has helped them in their recovery.

How did you become involved with Alive to Strive?

Jason: I met Marie-Eve, President of Alive to Strive, through the organization I work for, the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability, which promotes active living among people with a disability. Having discovered Colleen’s issues with her kidneys in 2008, we were instantly interested in helping to bring awareness to the great work that Alive to Strive does for Ottawa kidney patients.

Colleen: I know from personal experience what a difference being active can make in dealing with kidney disease and I’d love to be able to spread the message of success to others in the hopes of helping.

You’ll both be walking in the 5km Alive to Strive Race on April 28. Do you have a goal for the walk?

Jason: We want to lend our support to the work of the Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Project, to help empower those with kidney disease to benefit through a more active lifestyle. We hope we can encourage others living with kidney disease to use active living as a positive outlet. This race is also a celebration of our health.

Colleen:  Walking the 5km with Jason is an opportunity to reinforce the importance of physical activity, both as a way of preventing kidney disease and in dealing with it. I’m hoping that by hearing our story and seeing how well we’re feeling other people in my similar situation can be assured that physical activity can go a long way to improve health for a person living with kidney disease.

You just underwent the kidney transplant surgery in early March, 2013. How is your recovery going?

Jason: We’re both feeling fantastic. I had a few nerves leading into the surgery, but Colleen takes life in stride; she was amazingly calm and assured about the whole process, which helped me feel at ease. We were very fortunate that the surgery was a success. I was able to visit Colleen in her room a day after surgery, and within five days of surgery, we were both home from the hospital. We’re taking things slowly but are feeling stronger as time passes. I’m hoping to get the go-ahead soon to begin running again. We are incredibly grateful for the amazing medical team and for the support of friends and family who have been there for us. This time has forced Colleen and I to take a step back and to really appreciate life and everything that we are so fortunate to have. I’m so proud of Colleen for facing this whole thing with grace and courage.

Colleen: I’m still adjusting to the obvious things, like the extra time dialysis once took up, having showers now that I’m free of the catheter, enjoying foods that I haven’t been able to eat in years. The doctors are happy with how I’m responding to the new kidney. We’ve both been walking on the treadmill each day to help with the healing. In all honesty, we pretty much feel back to ourselves, and we find it hard to believe, having talked about it so much beforehand, that the surgery is behind us. I’m very fortunate that Jason is so young and healthy and that his kidney has helped me to feel so well.

Join Jason and Colleen on Sunday, April 28th and walk or run for kidney health!

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