Gibsonburg High School senior Daniel Repp fully intends to compete in the National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games for years to come.
“I'll do it as long as I can,” Repp said. “As long as I'm feeling healthy.”
Good health has been a bonus for Repp, 17, for the last couple years.
He underwent a kidney transplant in October 2007 and said he now feels like his younger teen-age self.
“Now, I fit in with everybody,” Repp said. “Everybody loves me.”
Repp caught a still unknown virus at age 8 and, he said, “it started kicking in when I was 10.”
His parents, Doug and Jayne Repp, took Daniel to the family doctor in Fremont to have some blood samples taken, and what the doctor found was enough for him to recommend that Daniel have a kidney biopsy taken the next morning in Toledo.
“Dan was always feeling lethargic,” Doug said. “Right after the biopsy, they told us what the issue was. He had 25 percent of his kidney function left and they were just going to burn themselves out.”
Daniel's mother was lined up as a potential kidney donor to her son. But according to Doug, she “got eliminated at the last minute” and Daniel was put on a national kidney call list.
“Because he had a virus, they had to take both those kidneys out because they don't want to damage the new kidney,” Doug said. “They took the one out that was working the better of the two, so he had to go on dialysis from January to October (2007).
“He was running cross country and he played basketball and baseball. He was very much into those sports. The doctors said he was playing all these sports, but most kids in his condition don't even go to school because they're so tired.”
Daniel was a member of his eighth grade cross country team, but by the end of the season he could barely finish a race, according to Doug.
“At the beginning of the season he was doing really well,” Doug said. “The day before the transplant, he got his picture taken at church and he looked white as a ghost. At 5 o'clock the next morning we got a call to get down to Cincinnati (Children's Hospital) for the transplant. Everything since then has been fantastic. He got behind in school, but physically he has done real well.”
Daniel can recall most of what he went through during the transplant process, but he admitted he was too young to fully comprehend his situation. All he wanted to do was play basketball and hang with his friends and “be a normal kid.”
Daniel, who is 5-foot-6 and weighs 118 pounds, is now a fourth-year member on Gibsonburg's golf team. He also competed on the school's club bowling team last season, and he's been working 20-25 hours a week at McDonald's for nearly two years.
Daniel competed in the 20th National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games from July 30 through Aug. 4 in Madison, Wis., and won a gold medal in golf and a bronze medal in bowling in the 14-17 age group. He also competed in table tennis, but he lost early in group play.
“I had a kid that was one of the top players in the whole thing,” Daniel said. “I got eliminated immediately.”
The U.S. Transplant Games, which promote organ and tissue donor awareness, are held every two years and consist of 13 athletic competitions. Daniel also competed in the Games two years ago and brought home a gold medal in golf.
“The Games are sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation for people who have had transplants,” Doug said. “Other people attend, like people who have given a kidney or a liver. Those are called living donors. They also have people who have lost a loved one and donated their organs. It's really quite touching. There is a big opening ceremony and (actor) Larry Hagman is usually the big guest for that. He's had a liver transplant.”
Daniel shot a 6-over-par 78 at Yahara Hills Golf Course during this year's tournament, and he had games of 177 and 175 during the bowling event.
“I did better in bowling than I thought I would,” he said. “I used to bowl three times a week as a club sport and I got pretty good over the years. I didn't do that good in golf. The course wasn't playing for me. I would hit a good shot and it would end up in the bunker, no matter where I'd hit it.”
In the end, however, Daniel said he felt good about taking part in the Games and meeting fellow kidney transplant recipients.
“I've met people over the years that have been through the same stuff as me,” he said. “I see people who have had it worse than me, and I hear their stories and I tell them mine. It's kind of a big storytelling deal and it makes me feel more involved.
“I think of it more as raising awareness to organ and tissue donation. That's what is needed everywhere now, more than it ever was. I had a really fun time, but hanging out with my parents for a full week is a little bit much.”
According to the NKF, more than 100,000 men, women and children are waiting for an organ transplant in the United States. Approximately 80,000 are waiting for a kidney.
To learn more about the NKF, visit www.kidney.org.