From Kidney Transplant to Gold Medals

Ken Sutha National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant GamesBack in 2006, at the age of 24, Ken Sutha received his living donor kidney transplant at Emory. His donor was none other than his own father. Four years later, not only has Ken made remarkable strides in his overall health, but even more amazing, he has gone from a non-athlete to a world class swimmer.

Ken practices each day after class at Georgia Tech, where he’s a student in the Emory and Georgia Tech MD/PhD program. Recently, his practice paid off in a big way. Back in August, Ken returned home from Madison, Wisconsin where he was a participant in the 2010 National Kidney Foundation (NKF) U.S. Transplant Games.

Representing Team Georgia, Ken competed in the 100-yard medley, 50-yard butterly, 100-yard backstroke, and 500-yard freestyle events. A tremendous feat for someone who underwent a life changing transplant. What’s even more impressive? Ken left the NKF U.S. Transplant Games with two gold medals and one silver medal. However, it was not the medals, but the experience, that left a lasting impression on Ken.

“My favorite part of the Games was meeting other recipients, living donors, and donor families,” Ken notes. “One of our Emory recipients, Sherrell Gay, celebrated her eighth anniversary of her heart transplant at the closing ceremony on Tues., Aug. 3,” he continues. “She competed in table tennis this year.”

Ken is a shining example that those who undergo solid organ transplants are able to return to a normal high-quality life, and often, can achieve a level of health they never reached prior to transplant. In addition to swimming, Ken competes in sprint triathlons to stay in shape. His last sprint was at the Rock ‘N Rollman Triathlon in June in Macon, GA. We will continue to keep you posted on Ken’s remarkable achievements.

Or, if you’re interested in learning more about the games or kidney transplant from Ken, please leave your questions in the comments below. Ken will be responding to any questions you have for him!

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  • I am very humbled to be featured for this post and would like to thank the Emory Transplant Center, its staff, and doctors for all they’ve done for me!

    The experience of being at the Transplant Games with close to 1500 other recipient athletes and 5000 people total, including living donors and donor family members, was truly amazing and awe inspiring. Everyone at the Games, and everyone whose life has been touched by transplant and organ donation, has a story to share, and my only regret from the Games is that there wasn’t enough time to hear them from more people.

    Before my transplant, even before I was at my sickest, I never imagined that there was an athlete hiding somewhere within me! After receiving the gift of my dad’s kidney, I knew I had to do all I could to stay healthy and that being physically active was an important part of that. Now, I’m feeling great, am in the best shape of my life, and can’t imagine things otherwise!

    In addition to swimming, I took up biking as part of my triathlon training. This past weekend, I did a 47 mile charity ride benefiting Camp Twin Lakes and the NKF’s Camp Independence, a camp for kids with kidney disease or any kind of transplant, and had the great fortune of getting to ride along with Dr. Pearson, the Emory transplant surgeon who performed my transplant 4.5 years ago! (You can read more about the ride and camp at my website link.)

    As for any questions you may have, fire away! I’m ready and waiting!

  • Sherrell Gay

    Ken is truly one of the most outstanding young men I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friend! He always has a smile on his face and unselfishly gives his time and resources to help others and to keep his gift of life going. He is a true believer of “paying it forward”. I am honored work with Ken in our Georgia Transplant Foundation Mentor Project. As mentors, we become the “Faces of Hope” to those beginning the transplant journey (candidates/recipients, living donors, and caregivers). Everyone that talks to Ken realizes life can be great after transplant. Ken has been on Team Georgia in 2 NKF US Transplant Games and is looking forward already to the 2012 games. Thank you Ken for all you do for our transplant community!

  • Min

    Ken, you’re an inspiration! Thank you Emory Healthcare for spotlighting such an inspirational story.

  • Daron H

    Thanks a lot for the blog article. Really Cool.

  • Jack

    Great story!!
    Ken , Hats off to you . You are truly a motivator and an inspiration for those who easily lose hope. People should read this article and get some inspiration from you.

    Thanks for sharing this post.