Transplants Games shows benefits for recipients

Saturday, August 23, 2008 | 11:53 p.m. CDT

 COLUMBIA — Eric Sherron’s health four years ago was declining, and he didn’t know why.
He suffered through consistent headaches, horrible tastes in his mouth, and skyrocketing blood pressure.
“The defining moment leading up to my diagnosis was my visual problem,” Sherron, 37, said. “I couldn’t see out of my left eye one day when I was hiking. Everything was blurry.”
A blood test revealed the problem: Sherron’s kidneys were functioning 8 percent as well as they should have been. He would need a transplant, and in April of 2005 his mother, Linda Sherron, donated one of her kidneys.
 “I was the healthiest person that I knew,” Eric said. “It made me aware of the limitations of the body. I am aware of how quickly things can go wrong.”
Sherron and James Campbell participated in the biannual National Kidney Foundation’s U.S. Transplant Games from July 11 to 16 in Pittsburgh, Penn. They were the only two medalists from Columbia.
Sherron won gold medals in swimming in the 50-yard backstroke and 50-yard freestyle. He also earned silver medals in the 50 yard-butterfly and 100-yard individual medley.
Campbell, 62, earned a silver medal in racquetball.
Campbell has Alport Syndrome, a hereditary disease that causes kidney failure. It has killed six males in his family.
He went through 15 months of home dialysis, which were three, six-hour sessions each week. His wife, Anne, helped him with the process. On Aug. 15, 1974, Campbell underwent his first kidney transplant.
“I was mainly trying to stay alive with dialysis,” he said. “Transplant was a little more primitive back then (in 1974). I was in the hospital for 10 weeks after my surgery.”
Campbell had his second kidney transplant in June 2003. His donor was his wife.
“I didn’t even ask her about donating,” he said. “She went through all the tests to become a donor. It’s not easy. There are a lot of things to do.”
Her kidney was not the only thing Campbell received from his wife.
“I loved olives and didn’t care for chocolate,” he said. “My wife loves dark chocolate. After the second transplant, I was going after her chocolate.”
Campbell pauses in telling, as he calls it, the chocolate story for a second.
“Maybe they transplanted more than a kidney,” he said with a laugh.
Sherron and Campbell say their quality of life has improved because of their transplants and hope donors will arise for the, according to the National Kidney Foundation, near 100,000 people in need of an organ donation.
“It (his transplant) got me from being sick to being able to do things,” Sherron said. “I appreciate the fact that I can swim as fast as I can and not feel sick. I just have a newfound sense of humility and gratitude.”
Campbell added, “There’s no doubt that that you can get on with your life. I was able to get my Ph.D (at MU). I’m back to playing racquetball and doing those things I love to do.”
Their experiences have led them to value the Transplant Games and the opportunity they provide for others.
“I find the Games to be an inspiration,” Campbell said. “Nobody looks sick. They are very good athletes. It’s remarkable.”

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