STEUBENVILLE - Kenny Davis Jr. was a little nervous when he arrived in Houston for the 2014 Transplant Games of America last month.
"My family and I flew into Houston and we spent that first evening just zoning out a little and relaxing. The next day started at around 9 a.m. and it turned into a very long day because there were so many participants and not enough volunteers. My first event was the shot put, but I didn't do as well as I hoped to. I came in third place in the shot put event and won a bronze medal," related Davis.
"I was more nervous when I went into the discuss event and scratched my first two throws. It came down to my last throw and I took first place and a gold medal. That salvaged the day for me," said Davis.
AND?HIS?MEDALS — Kenny Davis Jr. shows off the gold and bronze medals he won in July at the 2014 Transplant Games of America in Houston. Davis is considering entering the World Transplant Games in Argentina next year. --- Dave Gossett
Davis still is waiting for a phone call from Pittsburgh telling the 27-year-old to come to the hospital for a kidney transplant.
"But going to the Transplant Games and seeing the little kids that are running races because they need an organ transplant was humbling. There are definitely a lot of people worse off than I am," said Davis.
Nine years ago Davis was attending Ohio Dominican University, playing college football and thinking seriously about a career in law.
"I had hurt my back and was doing physical therapy but was still going to the games where I stood on the sidelines. I noticed my legs were swelling up and I was aching a lot. I came home for a weekend to see my younger brother play football for Catholic Central and my parents made an appointment with our family doctor who ran some tests. He then sent me to a kidney specialist. The kidney doctor told me I was in the early stages of a kidney disease. It was pretty devastating news. I was 19 years old and never thought I would hear anything like that. I started thinking I would have to grow up and put my life on hold. The specialist told me there was no cure for the disease but there were different types of treatment. One year later the doctor told me my kidneys were functioning at 10 percent and I needed a transplant," related Davis.
He received a kidney transplant after his mother, Penny, tested positive for a match. But that would be temporary when surgery for an ankle injury caused his body to reject the new kidney.
That started a period of sitting and waiting for a phone call from the transplant specialists until he heard about the Transplant Games.
"Just to see everyone together in Houston sharing their personal experiences and supporting each other was great. I am already planning to participate in the 2016 America Transplant Games in Cleveland and take a large crowd with me. I hope to participate in more events there. And I also hope to get the word out about organ transplants and to raise awareness about the issue. I also want to see some of the people I met in Houston again at the games in Cleveland," stated Davis.
"This has all changed my life again for the better. I know I will get the phone call about a kidney transplant but I am no longer just sitting and waiting. I want to help other people in anyway I can," he said.
Davis also is thinking about participating in the World Transplant Games in Argentina in 2015.
"One of the guys I met in Houston was from Ohio and he encouraged me to think about joining Team Ohio for the world games. I have to figure out what I have to do. If I go I will have to raise money to travel to Argentina. Plus my sister's wedding is next year and I want to be here for the wedding. But it would be exciting to represent my country at the world games," said Davis.
Davis is now preparing to take classes at Eastern Gateway Community College in the coaching education program. And I plan to continue helping coach track in the area," noted Davis.
"It felt good competing again, just getting that feeling back. So when I coach I can relate to what the kids are feeling. I definitely had a great time and I want to use what I learned to help the kids I coach here," stated Davis.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)