Transplant recipients race ahead with lives

Participants in annual relays promote donation

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter


photoHood to Coast founder Bob Foote talks to The Columbian about undergoing two kidney transplants more than 20 years ago. Foote was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus in 1983 and needed a transplant a few years later after the disease destroyed his kidneys. He received his second transplant in 1991.

(/The Columbian)

5 things you should know about the Hood to Coast Relay:

Hood to Coast (200 miles), Portland to Coast and Portland to Coast High School Challenge all kick off Friday. Teams will complete the relay event Saturday at Seaside, Ore.

This year’s event includes more than 20,400 runners and walkers and 4,200 volunteers.

In 2010, the event raised more than $500,000 for the American Cancer Society, the event’s charity partner.

Hood to Coast regularly fills up on opening day of registration in October, allowing 1,250 teams and turning away more than 1,000.

Runners and walkers can find 502 Honey Buckets along the course.

5 things you should know about organ donation:

You can register to be a donor when obtaining your driver’s license or through the donor registry (http://www.donate...

Every 11 minutes, a new name is added to the organ waiting list. Every day, 18 people die while on that list.

Currently, 89,442 people in the U.S. and 1,440 people in Washington state are awaiting kidney transplants.

One organ and tissue donor can help more than 50 people.

Living people can donate blood, bone marrow, one kidney, a portion of a lung and a portion of a liver.

One is a 40-year-old landscaper from Vancouver. The other is a 64-year-old former ultramarathoner and founder of the Hood to Coast Relay.

One will take part in the 130-mile Portland to Coast Walk Relay. The other will kick off 30 years of Hood to Coast and 21 years of Portland to Coast.

Both rely on donated kidneys to keep their bodies healthy.

Lee Golden Jr. underwent a kidney transplant Aug. 15, 2000, after suffering from kidney disease for a year and a half. His mother, Delores Golden, donated one of her kidneys to her son.

Event founder Bob Foote received his first kidney transplant in 1986 after being diagnosed with lupusthree years earlier. In 1989, the kidney failed and Foote was back on dialysis. He received his second transplant in 1991.

For the past 10 years, Lee and Delores Golden have walked with Donate Life Northwest’s Transplant Trotters, a team of organ recipients and donors, in Portland to Coast. They’ve captained the team for most of those years, with the help of Lee Golden Sr.

Throughout the years, Foote has watched the team from a distance. But this year, the 30th anniversary of Hood to Coast and the 10th year of the Transplant Trotters, he decided to speak out about his own kidney transplants.

“It really is neat to have a whole transplant team,” Foote said.

“Post-transplant they’re still normal and can do normal activities and have athletic pursuits,” he added. “And I’ve always felt that way about myself.”

Pushing limits

Foote said his lifestyle was what led to his lupus diagnosis in 1983. He was pushing himself to the limit: operating the large architecture firm he owned, remodeling a massive office building, coordinating Hood to Coast and, with more than 35 marathons under his belt, running ultramarathons.

Something had to give. That something was his health.

“Lupus sort of took over my body and my life,” Foote said.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system attacks not only foreign substances but also healthy tissue. The cause of lupus is unknown, but doctors believe people are predisposed to the disease, which is then triggered by something in the environment, according to the Mayo Clinic.

By 1985, the disease had destroyed Foote’s kidneys. He was on dialysis for a year until he received his first transplant.

Doctors encountered problems during the transplant surgery as Foote’s body tried to reject the foreign organ. The kidney lasted three years before it failed, sending Foote back to dialysis.

In 1991, doctors told Foote they found a perfect kidney match. The organ came from New York City, much farther than the typical three-state range for receiving organs. Foote’s surgeon and transplant team, however, were all Hood to Coast participants and called in a favor.That same New York hospital had used a kidney from Oregon a few years earlier. In 1991, the hospital staff reciprocated by sending Foote a new kidney.

Foote returned to his lifestyleprior to his kidney failure. It didn’t take long for Foote to realize he couldn’t maintain his busy schedulewithout his health taking a toll. So he walked away from his architect firm and turned Hood to Coast into his only full-time job.

“In hindsight, it was the best decision of my life,” he said. “It probably saved my life.”

Now, 20 years later, Foote’s donated kidney remains in good condition. He’s still running, though not competing in races, and putting on the world’s largest relay race year after year.

“This hasn’t limited my life whatsoever,” Foote said. “In fact, I think it’s enhanced it because I came to appreciate life a lot because I came so close to losing it.”

A mother’s gift

Lee Golden has a similar appreciation for his second chance at life.

Golden was diagnosed with kidney disease in 1999. His name was added to the national transplant list and his parents were tested as possible matches. His mother, Delores Golden, was a great match, but Golden refused to put his mother through a major surgery on his behalf. So Golden underwent chemotherapy and had four-hour dialysis sessions three days a week for a year and a half.

Finally, in 2000, Golden accepted his mother’s offer to donate a kidney.

Delores Golden noticed a difference in her son’s condition immediately after surgery.

“They wheeled him in and you could just see the blood, the color come back into his face,” she said. “That’s how you knew it worked.”

Golden’s body accepted the new kidney without problem.

“In essence, that changed my life,” Golden said.

Four years later, Golden met Laurie Scheer at the National Kidney Foundation’s Transplant Games, an Olympic-style event open to organ recipients. Scheer, 35, received a kidney from her father after a virus attacked and destroyed her kidney when she was 21.

Golden proposed to Scheer in 2008, and last year, Scheer moved from her home in Nebraska to Vancouver. This will be Scheer’s third year walking with the Transplant Trotters team in Portland to Coast.

The team of organ recipients and donors use the annual event to raise awareness about donation and show others that organ recipients can lead normal, active lives. They also see it as an opportunity to honor their friends who haven’t survived and celebrate their second chances.

“You think we’re ordinary,” Scheer said. “But we’re extraordinary. We were given another chance at life. We celebrate life.”

Marissa Harshman:;;; 360-735-4546.