HHG Note: Another inspiring young man! Ken's story is a great reminder as to why we all need to say "yes" as a donor on our driver's license. Good luck in Pittsburgh, Ken!
While many medical students were preparing for board exams in 2006, Ken Sutha was already spending plenty of time in the hospital as a patient.
Diagnosed with kidney disease at age 10, Sutha's condition was stable through high school but worsened during college.
"I knew then that I'd have to either go on dialysis or have a kidney transplant," he says.
Sutha received his kidney from his father, Surachai, at Emory University Hospital in April 2006.
After the transplant, he wanted to find more ways to get involved with transplant patients. He become a camp counselor at Camp Independence in Rutledge, Ga., a camp for children diagnosed with kidney disease or with solid organ transplants. Now in his third year as a counselor, Sutha spends one week a summer sharing experiences with other transplant recipients.
He credits fellow counselors and campers with inspiring him to take up swimming on an advanced level, and his dedication to the sport led to another passion -- training for, and participating in, the National Kidney Foundation Transplant Games.
The Transplant Games, held this year in Pittsburgh July 11-16, are a nationwide sporting event for transplant recipients. The event is the only national athletic competition for recipients of all life-saving organ transplants, as well as the largest gathering of transplant recipients and donor families in the world. Sutha will represent Georgia and compete in the 100-meter medley and race-walking.
"The Transplant Games are something that kind of snowballed once I got into it and everyone found out," Sutha says. "One of the many reasons I am participating is to increase awareness among the general public of the critical need for more organ donors. I want to encourage others to think about organ donation and to talk to their families about it."
Now working on MD/PhD degrees with a focus on stem cell and bone regeneration research at Emory University and Georgia Tech, Sutha believes that his work in biomedical engineering ties in with his transplant surgery.
"I was fortunate enough to receive a living donor kidney from my dad, but in Georgia alone, there are more than 1,950 people waiting for a transplant, and someone to give the gift of life," says Sutha. "I want people to know that transplants work and I am a success story. I'm doing well and leading a normal life. In fact I'm doing more now than I would otherwise."