Anthony Parsons has more reason than most of the Ironman-distance triathletes he competes against to get a good night’s sleep, and watch what he eats.
The Gloucester resident takes 26 pills a day because of the kidney transplant he received in June 2011.
“I have to be extra careful,” he said, because his immune system is more at risk.
Parsons, who has always been active, running triathlons and participating in a variety of martial arts, found out his kidneys weren’t working in May 2010.
He was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, which means the filters for blood in his kidneys weren’t working properly – barely at all.
He started on a portable dialysis unit from home, and quickly learned fitting the system under the bulletproof vest he usually wears while working as a corporal in the Senate on Parliament Hill wasn’t going to work out.
The sessions four times a day, for four hours were the way of life until he could find a kidney donor. Thankfully, his younger brother Ryan was a match.
“They basically told me I’d be on dialysis for life or get a new kidney,” Parsons said.
Ryan – a bodybuilder who is significantly larger in stature than his older brother – donated one of his kidneys.
“I have a bigger one now, that’s why I can run so fast,” Parsons said with a laugh.
And while he has to hold back from some activities, like sparring during martial arts training, he’s pushed himself further when it comes to triathlons than he did before his transplant.
At the start of September, he finished third in his age category at the Canadian Triathlon at Mooney’s Bay. It was Ironman-length, meaning he had to complete a 3.8-km swim, 180-km cycle and 42-km run.
It’s a long way from his first days training 10 months earlier, when he started working his way up from two kilometre walks.
He worked his way up to 20 hours a week of training, sometimes over 12 hours a day on the weekends.
His return to triathlons came not even a year after his transplant with a shorter race in May.
“The smallest one was the biggest accomplishment; it was only 11 months after,” he said.
His success story has made him a voice for both the Kidney Foundation at the Give the Gift of Life fundraising walk and for the federal government’s Workplace Charitable Campaign.
The charitable campaign runs through payroll deductions and divides funds between 16 charitable groups, one of which is the Kidney Foundation.
“It’s hard to get people to donate because there are so many foundations,” he said. “But you’re making a difference.”
A doctor told him that much of the funding for research into kidney disease has come from charitable donations and the Kidney Foundation.
He’s given about 10 to 12 talks in the workplace about the difference the money donated by his co-workers at the federal government has made.
“It’s not a competition, but it’s hard for the Kidney Foundation as a smaller organization,” he said.
The 2012 season is done, but he’s already looking to next year and is registered for next summer’s official Ironman competition to be held in Mt. Tremblant, Que.