In 2013, I weighed 210 pounds. In October 2017, I weighed 136 pounds and donated a kidney to my youngest son Ax. This is our story.
Like most people, I was not always overweight. I'm a pretty small guy – 5 feet-6-inches and about 1
I started writing full-time in April 2011, so it was the transition from winter to spring (in Texas, anyway). When the cold weather came again, it came to a hard conclusion: None of my cold weather clothes fit. I had gained a lot of weight without realizing it.
Nevertheless, I have nothing to do with my sedentary lifestyle or habits – I've just bought new clothes. Finally, I reached my maximum weight of 210 pounds. At that point, I knew I needed to do something, so I decided to get active. I bought a bike because I liked driving as a kid, but it did not work out well. It just was not as funny as I remembered, which makes a lot of sense in retrospect – I was incredibly overweight and out of shape. Eventually I sold this bike and went back to my previous lifestyle, sitting on my ass and eating too much.
Then, just before the end of 2013, I decided that enough was enough and that it was time to really change. In August, my wife and I went to a bike shop to take a look, and finally I started a Specialized Sirrus – my first "real" bike and something that will change my life forever. It was a birthday present from my wife, who was just as tired of being overweight (or maybe even more so).
The Beginning of My Weight Loss Journey  The Sirrus, which comes from the life of Specialized street-style hybrid bicycles, was the first bike I had ever owned that did not come from a boxing store. Before this bike I could not have imagined spending $ 500 on a bike, but after driving it for the first time, I understood the excitement. I understood why it was important to get on a reasonably sized bike, and I realized how much more comfortable shifting felt. This was the bike that got me excited about cycling.
However, it did not start easily – five miles was about my maximum distance before I felt I was going to die. I've made smaller distances like this for a few months with little to no weight loss (I think I lost about five pounds in the first few months). Frustration crept in and I almost gave up. Instead, I researched and learned what I had to accomplish all along: Diet is a critical part of losing weight. If I say it out loud now, it seems so stupid and obvious, but at that time I thought that if I were more active, I would start to lose weight. Close.
So I started researching and reading about CICO (calories in, calories out), which is a proven method of losing weight for many people. The basics are pretty simple: Burn more calories than you take and lose weight. Due to genetics, some people lose weight faster and others are more struggling with hunger and blood sugar problems, but without medical problems, this method should work well for most people. I downloaded MyFitnessPal from Google Play and started tracking my intake.
I followed my normal intake for a few weeks (without trying to cut anything out) to see how much I ate on an average day. It was much . MyFitnessPal provides a pretty easy way to find out how many calories you should eat a day to lose at a certain price (one pound a week, half a pound a week, etc.). I pocketed my numbers to lose a pound a week and set off.
The thing is, I also needed a way to determine how many calories I burned on my bike. That may come as a surprise, but that's not as easy as it sounds. Just about every app that tracks activity and calorie consumption uses proprietary algorithms whose results may vary wildly even double. I tested so many apps in the beginning, but ended up with Runtastic (Android, iOS). It seemed to deliver what I considered the most realistic calorie information at the time, given my limited experience with these kinds of things.
In the first few weeks, I did not lose weight and remained hungry all the time. It was crazy, and I wanted to give up more than once because I thought it was not working. But I stayed on course, rode my bike and watched my inlet. After about three weeks, the numbers dropped on the scale, and as soon as the weight dropped, it dropped at a dramatic rate. I continued into next year and lost more than 40 pounds.
At the end of 2014 I had a value of about 165. While I was pretty weak, I was still technically overweight according to BMI (I started with "obese"). I had made good progress, but there was still much to do.
Then our world was shaken.
Christmas to Remember
In December 2014, Focal was diagnosed with my youngest son Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare disorder in children that causes kidney failure.
When my youngest son was born in early 2012, he had a small skin tag on his ear. This raises concerns because the kidneys and ears in the womb are formed at about the same time, so that deforming one can mean one problem for the other. They did an ultrasound on his kidneys, everything looked fine and we did not think about it anymore.
He was always a little baby, but since my wife and I are both quite small, that was not so worried us or his doctors. However, by the middle of 2014, we noticed he was not gaining significant weight. At about the same time, we noticed that his eyes were watered every morning. We decided to take him to the doctor.
First, there was no cause for concern. As we suspected the doctor, seasonal allergies were the cause of his swollen eyes. As for weight gain, the doctor suggested that a gluten allergy might be the problem and put him on a gluten-free diet. After a few weeks it seemed to work – he had gained a few pounds!
It turned out we were all wrong.
During Christmas week 2014 my little boy got the flu. This was the first time he was ill, as we always took the necessary precautions to keep him well. On Christmas day, he was too ill to even get out of bed – he just wanted to sleep, even if we had gifts open. That night, my wife noticed that his legs were swollen. We waited overnight to see if he felt better in the morning, but the next day it was clear that something was wrong.
My wife researched swollen legs and found something called "Nephrotic Syndrome." This is a generic term that says the kidneys are not working as they should, and we have four more children together (our youngest is our only child), so she stayed with them while I took our son to the emergency room.
There was no one in the ER since it was a day after Christmas, so we were almost immediately seen told Axes doctor symptoms and made sure I mentioned the nephrotic syndrome (which, to be honest, I did not know what I was really suggesting then) and he did a first examination and within a few minutes he looked at me and said:
"I need you to do something for me, you need him to put him back in your car and drive to the Children's Hospital [in Dallas, TX]. Can you do that?" If not, I can h an ambulance to take you there. The visit is free and you must take it immediately. "
Wow. My mind was racing. What was wrong? Why the urgency?
I called my wife, we took the other children to my mother-in-law's home and took Ax to the emergency room at the Children's Medical Center in Dallas, TX (a 30-minute drive from where we lived at the time ) on the 26th of December at 19:00. He was lethargic and looked terrible. They did several tests, but when they tried to take a urine sample through a catheter and his bladder was completely dry, we knew something was very wrong.
At midnight that night, they told us his kidneys were not functioning properly and have admitted us. The following morning at 7:00 am he underwent surgery to get a hemodialysis catheter. He was two years old.
The "weight" he had gained was the retention of fluid. The swollen eyes were the first signs of nephrotic syndrome. The swollen legs were caused by edema. His kidneys had failed months and we had no idea – his doctor had no reason to believe that anything could be wrong with the kidneys, so why would he do that? Kidney failure in children is very unusual.
Here's the really scary part: They told us that we probably would not have lived if we would wait one more day to get him to the emergency room. He was so close to death, and we were absolutely unaware. The thought of it hits me in the pit of my stomach in a way I can not put into words.
The diagnosis that changed everything
The morning before the surgery, we met our nephrologist and he explained what was going on and what to expect. He told us that Ax would have to do a dialysis to remove the excess fluid from his body – this fluid was eventually toxic. Since his kidneys did not work as they should, the material that is normally filtered out through the urine fell back into his body. In his bloodstream.
Just as each parent would do, my wife and I were both upset. But the nephrologist came to me and said something that I will never forget as long as I live. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I want you to know that this is not our first time. But I want you to understand that we know it belongs to you. "I still can not think about it without ripping. These words meant so much to me, and to this day, that's probably the most significant thing anyone has ever said to me.
Ax was in surgery for a couple of hours (if the memory serves, blurring) and started with his first dialysis treatment almost immediately afterwards. The liquid had to drain quickly, although it had to be a gradual process.
First, he had dialysis four times a week and we were in the hospital for a total of three weeks. During this time he had a kidney biopsy done to see what was going on and whether it was chronic or acute. Some diseases, such as sore throat, can lead to acute kidney failure in children. Therefore, they only need to be dialyzed for a short time until the kidneys jump back. At this time, this was our best case.
However, this is not the case we got. When the results of the biopsy returned, they were clear: it was chronic. Just a few days ago, when we received the official diagnosis (FSGS), we already knew one thing: he had end stage renal disease (ESRD) and would need a kidney transplant. In the meantime, he remained dialyzed until he was big enough for a transplant.
After the biopsy he peed again, and that was it. He did not pee for three years and relied on dialysis to keep his system clean. He stayed on hemodialysis for four months, then switched to peritoneal dialysis, a kind of dialysis that we could do at home and make the tiny bodies much easier.
At the time of our first admission to the hospital I was about 165 pounds. When we got out in January 2015, I was around 150 because I did not eat much due to stress, depression, anxiety and other negative emotions that you experienced. But in the following months I ate too much and I climbed to 175 – also thanks to stress. Funny how that works.
Back to the Game
It took me a few months to get my head back in order to resume my weight loss goals. I can not overstate the toll it takes on your body and mind to challenge a chronically ill child – depression, guilt, heartbreak, fear of the unknown – everything is so hard to digest. We were so focused on him and I did not think about my own health goals at all.
But finally, we decided on a "new normal" – life with dialysis, the daily regimen of medicines and the chronic care sick child. After a few months, I knew it was time to get back to my health focus. How could I help him if I could not help myself?
This time I upgraded a new bike – a road bike, a "gift" for me, because I had reached my first weight loss goal of 40 pounds – and started training with better readings, including heart rate data. I had retired from apps like Runtastic to keep up with my cycling activities and switched to Garmin's cycling products – an Edge 510 at that time.
I found that the Garmin tracked the calories burned more than anything else, mainly because Garmin's metrics are dynamic. It "learns" your body and activity levels and then estimates your workload using a combination of age, heart rate, and terrain data. It is intelligent and as accurate as it can not be without a much more expensive system. (And frankly, the entry cost of switching to a Garmin alone is expensive enough.)
This is the time when I became more serious about weight loss than before. I started using MyFitnessPal to retrace calories and added a scale from Runtastic Libra to track my weight and other body measurements. There are some questions as to what these types of body weight scales are when it comes to specific details such as body fat percentage, but in my experience, consistency is more than accuracy – if you follow the same product and metrics every day, the results will follow.
Here the technology began to play a much more significant role in my weight loss. From that point on, my weight loss was driven by technology. New gadgets were added and became an integral part of my tracking, training and even life. The triad of MyFitnessPal, the Garmin Edge 510, and the Runtastic Libra scale helped me achieve my target weight of 155 pounds – a loss of 20 pounds a year and a total of 55 pounds – where I stayed until the end of 2015.  In 2016, I was happy with my routines as I cycled 500 miles a month on the bike. I guessed that given the time I spent cycling, I could eat whatever I wanted. I was wrong. I gained about 10 pounds in 2016, which raised me back to 165 – another unhealthy weight. (Although BMI classifies me even with 155 years hardly in the category "overweight".)
Somehow ironically, most of 2016 was spent trying to help Ax gain weight. The kidneys do so much more than just filtering out toxins, and children with kidney failure do not grow like other peers. Combine that with the fact that dialysis is very hard on the body and eliminates any desire for food. Well, it's a recipe that makes it incredibly difficult for any child to gain weight in this situation.
But we have kept the course. everything we could to reach the transplant weight (16 kg). By the end of 2016, we knew 2017 would be the year of transplantation.
My wife and I decided early on that I would come first for a possible donation. And with 2017, the year in which it would finally happen, I had to make my body ready not only to donate, but also to recover from the operation. While working largely for autopilot in 2016, 2017 was the time to get back to work.
Getting into the best shape of my life with Tech
On January 1, 2017, I drastically overhauled my diet. Once again I started to use MFP religiously. I cut out all drinks except water and coffee – I wanted my kidneys to be as clean as possible to donate. I monitored my water intake. I took better care of myself than ever before. While I had previously lost 55 pounds, I feel that my biggest health improvements came in 2017.
I added a power meter to the bike I was standing by. This is the most accurate way to track the calories burned. Power meters use strain gauges to calculate the power measured in watts in pedals. A watt corresponds to a calorie, so you know exactly how much you burn with the highest accuracy on a particular trip.
However, this was just the tip of the iceberg for me. I also got myself a bike trainer – a tool that lets you ride your bike inside – and soon after I found a program called TrainerRoad that could be used with it. If I had to choose one thing that would help me reach my fitness goals, this would be TrainerRoad.
Here's the thing with indoor cycling: It's kind of a shit. Being out on the bike is one of the best things to do while cycling, and the nuances of the road keep things interesting. Inside, you're just turning. It's boring and it's hard to stay motivated. Thirty minutes feels like an insanely long slog on a coach. But that has changed TrainerRoad at least for me.
It uses structured interval training to make drivers feel better – it helps them get faster. Most TrainerRoad users use it as part of a training plan to get faster in racing, but I had a much bigger goal in mind – I wanted to lose weight and be in the best transplanted way of my life. TrainerRoad has helped me more than physically.
Six weeks with CoachRoad have made me a stronger driver than constantly riding out three years . This was mainly due to the physical accomplishments, but there was one element that I did not expect: the mental change. With TrainerRoad, you are forced to keep going if you think you can not. It showed me how deep I could go – how deep my pain cave really is. If I usually retreated outside, TrainerRoad showed me that I could go far beyond what I had ever expected.
The breaking of this mental barrier meant more to me than just cycling – it showed me how much I could handle. My son was my motivation, and every time I wanted to retire, I thought of him. I thought of everything he had gone through, how hard he had struggled every day, just to be normal. The emotional response was all I needed to do the hardest workouts, and TrainerRoad helped me dig deep. Now I apply this kind of "profound" mentality to so many other aspects of my life.
I started using TrainerRoad with a "traditional" trainer, but soon upgraded to a smart trainer that could be remotely controlled from the software. This forced me to keep my intervals at the prescribed force; even if I wanted to back away, I could not. This brought my fitness to a level that I would never have achieved on my own.
I used to get stronger on the bike, to feel better overall and keep losing weight. I did all this while undergoing the necessary tests to be a donor (and believe me, there were so many tests ). I completed the application for live donor transplant on 3 March 2017. On April 13, I started with the compatibility checks.
On August 22, I was admitted as his donor.
On October 9, 2017, I walked through the doors of UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas, weighing 136 pounds – 74 pounds less than my starting weight in 2013 and 29 pounds from early 2017 – to my then-five-year-old son to donate a kidney. This is us the day after the transplant, October 10, 2017.
This was the culmination of my existence. The highest point I've ever been and likely to be. And without technology, I could not have done that.
Interesting Fact: You removed my kidney at UT Southwestern in Dallas, but my son's transplant at Children's Medical Center made it about a mile further. There were two surgeons, one worked on me and one on him. My surgery started about an hour before his, and both surgical teams were in contact with each other all the time. When my surgeon had finished removing my kidney, Ax prepared him. When my kidney was off my surgeon went to the children's hospital to get the kidney's final union in my son!
Both have been doing extremely well since the transplant. The doctors and surgeons said that his recovery would be much quicker than mine, and his body got something that was missing and needed while my body lost something he always had.
Transplant Day Postoperatively
That could not have been true either: Within three weeks, he still hopped off the walls like a normal five-year-old boy lying on the couch and trying to get up. It meant so much to me to finally take over the brunt of the burden of change – after years of struggling with his suffering and wishing I could take his place, I finally had a chance.
The Tech That Changed My – And My Son's Life – Life
That's our story, and there's technology that's being scattered everywhere. But for those who are interested in everything I've used over the years, I thought it might be helpful to put everything together in a concise list. Here it is.
Apps and Software
- MyFitnessPal (Android, iOS): Track calories and macros available for iOS and Android. An invaluable tool for those who want to lose weight or lose weight or just want to get in shape.
- Runtastic Pro (Android, iOS): Running tracks, cycling activities and much more. Available for iOS and Android.
- Strava (Android, iOS): This is the de facto standard for runners and cyclists – it's like a social network for athletes. Track activities and more with deep readings and fantastic data. Available for iOS and Android.
- TrainerRoad : Software for indoor bike trainer that will change your life. Available for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows.
Bikes and Gadgets
- Bikes: While it could be argued that there is nothing "tech" on motorcycles I think it just qualifies for how much research and advanced manufacturing is done on modern motorcycles. When it comes to my motorcycles, I have two: a 2016 Cannondale CAADX for gravel and 2016 Cannondale CAAD12 disc for the road.
- Garmin Edge : I started with an Edge 510 but later converted to a 520. These advanced cycling computers are among the best on the market. This was the first product that took my cycling to the next level.
- Runtastic Libra (out of production): This smart balance is synchronized with my phone (although in the past I have had many issues with this feature for several months) so I can keep up with my weight and body fat percentage. Over the years this has been a great benchmark, but it might be time for an upgrade. I want to replace my scale with Nokia Body +, which is highly recommended by the guys from TrainerRoad. If you're looking for a similar scale, this would be the first on my list of options.
- Kickr Snap Smart Trainer : My first coach was a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, one of the best fluid trainers on the market. But the Kickr Snap takes that to the next level. If you've been thinking about an indoor trainer, I wrote a guide to choosing the best one.
- Stages Power Meter : While my Garmin Edge 510 radically changed the way I ride, my Stages Power Meter used my workout indentation. It's an expensive buy-in, but I will not go without an electricity meter now.
Not everyone has a living donor, and every year thousands of people die from organ donation. If you have not already done so, I would ask you to register as an organ donor. It only takes a few minutes and could save a life.
I would like to personally thank each one of you for reading this – earnestly from the bottom of your heart. This was undoubtedly the hardest thing I ever wrote. It was difficult to live all the memories of our first diagnosis that I had not thought of in a few years. The pain and tears that accompanied this piece were things I did not expect when I started writing. I really appreciate that you took the time to live with me.