Six months after my kidney transplant, my younger brother, also my donor, caught me off guard. A competition by an Indian company caught my brother's fancy-a hunt to find the most popular adventurer on Facebook. That meant bicycling 30 km a day for five days in Spain. But was I ready to take the leap? This would mean not only a second innings in my life but would have also meant a great deal for my brother.
Do you have a support system?
December last year, you read in Men's Health how Anil struggled (and eventually embraced) to make one of the biggest decisions of his life. I remember his words, his panic ("When the time came close, I was finding ways to escape") but most starkly his conviction ("When I moved back home after having spent 16 years in America, it was like we were never apart. Was I about to let this end? Just because I was scared?...Was it my ultimate sacrifice to let him know that no matter what, I am there for him?...There was nothing that could come in the way now"). So I approached my doctor, who approved of my decision, and two months later Anil announced that he had won the competition, and the three of us, including Anil's teenage son, were ready to roll. Modern medicine got me back to work in three weeks, and back to golf and partying in six weeks. But that would have been futile had it not been for the support of my wife and the priceless gift from my brother and his family. Though I did not get the time to practise cycling, I was ready to take on the challenge. Often, I would just stop as the surgical site would get sore. I wondered, was I playing a little too hard? I often thought if I was being foolhardy to do this trip so soon after the surgery . With all the medications and the food restrictions, outdoor activities are difficult, but not if one plans methodically. The first few months are the most important period post a transplant, so a good diet consisting of home -cooked food, optimum rest and a calm mind helps you get back to daily life. I had never dreamt that I would be working out in just a month after surgery. Building my stamina was a Herculean task, as the disease does take a toll on the muscles, but stick to a regimen of walking and yoga, and you will be ready for smooth pedalling.
Today I can say, riding the mountainous roads around the city of Ronda and the small towns, even during recovery, was worth all the physical strife because I shared it with my closest friends: My brother and nephew. Thanks to the motivation I got from both of them, I can say that I would not change anything if I had to do it all over again. Those seven days were the longest that I spent with my brother after a long time, and in retrospect, we needed something like this. And of course, I wanted to bicycle across Spain to prove that life after a transplant is normal.
Don't just get through
Though as a donor, my brother took more time to recover, but the support he recieved at home got him through it. While the recipient suffers drug-related issues post surgery, the donors battle the extra pain. I guess our presence and encouragement for each other is what got us through it better than most people do. Also, the slopes in Spain showed me what he was capable of and that image will be forever etched in my mind.
Living my second innings, I realised every person has it in him or her to catch life by the horns and live it up within the logical frame. I always knew that dialysis is not the best option and a surgery seemed better, but the restrictions scared me. But all those who fear that there is no life after a transplant, I now know that your will power has a huge role to play and if I can do it, I am sure so can you.
Take the leap
Want to prepare for a physically daunting task after your surgery?
Dr Dushyant Nadar, director, Urology and Renal Transplant, Fortis Hospital, Noida, tells you how
Ensure an adequate supply of drugs, especially immunosuppressants.
Hygiene is of utmost importance as you can get diarrhea. Have boiled water, and avoid over or under-cooked food, especially street food.
Avoid heavy lifting until three or four months.
You can workout and play outdoors after six weeks.
Commence your regular life fearlessly.
You can eat anything, as long as it's healthy.