On March 7, 2013, Colleen Dunkerley received the gift of life from her husband Jason. Five days after surgery, Colleen left the hospital with a healthy new kidney. It was so healthy, in fact, that the kidney started working right away and so effectively that doctors wanted Colleen to take it easy in case the new kidney accidentally flushed out some good things. Now that’s a keen kidney!
Both Jason and Colleen lead active lifestyles and they credit their good physical health to their rapid recovery. Within four days of surgery, Jason was taking short walks, increasing the distance a little bit each day. Likewise, Colleen was walking on the treadmill and outdoors for short periods. “We feel better when we’re moving,” says Jason. “Doing something to help yourself, physically and mentally, we incorporated it every day.” Colleen adds that she’s “pretty lucky to still do as much as possible in life. Being in shape before surgery was a big part of continuing my physical activities as soon as possible after surgery.”
Reflecting on their transplant experience and the time leading up to it, both Jason and Colleen feel like life at that time was dreamlike. Colleen’s time on dialysis was a challenging period, although it gave them comfort to know that Jason was a match and that dialysis would be temporary. They were also fortunate to have a strong support system around them, with Jason’s mom and brother and Colleen’s father helping out.
As a donor, Jason says that he was well prepared and had a good sense of what he was getting into. He knew the risks but that the odds were overwhelmingly in his favor, and Colleen’s, for a successful transplant. “Colleen was at peace with the procedure, which really helped me. We had great support going into it,” Jason says. “Sometimes you forget how difficult it was. While it’s a big deal, a big procedure, you come out the other side and you don’t think about it. Although it’s now in the past, we’ll always remember.”
Since the transplant, Colleen and Jason have moved on with life, which is just the way it should be after a kidney transplant. Colleen went back to work, returned to her regular physical activity, and relished her time that was now freed up from dialysis and a diet free of restrictions. About one month post-surgery, Jason returned to the track and slowly, carefully worked his way back to training with his coach. His goal was to qualify for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in July 2013 in Lyon, France. Four months after donating his kidney, Jason competed in the 800m with his guide, Josh Karanja, setting a season’s best time at the Athletics World Championships. Way to go, Jason! It is very inspiring for donors and recipients to see what physical and mental achievements can be accomplished when you put your mind to it!
Colleen and Jason are looking forward to participating in the Alive to Strive race on April 27. Jason will be helping to bring awareness to dialysis and kidney transplantation with 11 other local celebrities by donning a 3kg vest (6.6 lbs) for the duration of the 5km race! The weight in the vest represents the average amount of weight a dialysis patient gains between treatments from fluid retention, which the malfunctioning kidney cannot eliminate from the body. Jason says this 3kg challenge will be a good reminder of what Colleen experienced while on dialysis.
Thank you Jason and Colleen for sharing your story! We are delighted to have you join us again this year on April 27 for the Alive to Strive race.