Local Liver Recipient Headed for Gold at World Transplant Games
SACRAMENTO, FAIR OAKS – Thirty-three-year old liver transplant recipient Nate Dunn lives in full-out speed mode — just two years after his life-saving transplant. And on Sunday, August 23, Nate heads for World Transplant Games in Argentina to compete in cycling. He’s got Gold on his mind.
The Fair Oaks husband and father spends 200 to 250 miles on his bicycle training for the Games each week – nearly two hours each day. He’s been anticipating his race in the World Transplant Games for some time. He missed the Games in 2013 due to liver failure.
“Last time around I was getting ready to have my transplant,” recalls Nate. “I was aware of the Games, and thought to myself, ‘In two years that’s where I’m going to be and I’m going to win that race!’ I’m excited my health is great now and I’m ready to go.”
Nate’s liver challenges began 16 years ago, when he was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a chronic disease where the bile ducts become blocked from inflammation and scarring, damaging his liver.
“I was diagnosed when I was 17 years and told I would most likely need a liver transplant in five to seven years. That was back in 2000, so I went past that projection date by quite a bit, but I eventually needed it.” Nate goes on to joke, “I prefer to live in a state of denial, so continued to race my bike. Even a month before the transplant, I went backpacking with my wife and carried my daughter. My biggest symptoms from the loss of my liver function were intense fatigue and extreme itching. Also, my liver was excessively enlarged and tender to the touch. I had this huge liver sticking out of my skin.”
Nate, who had been a high school basketball coach and physical education teacher, was talking to one of his former students in January of 2013, about the fact that he was going to need a transplant. He explained it would be advantageous to have a living donor, as he could be transplanted sooner and bounce back quickly. The student said, “Hey I would do that.” And he did.
“I am so grateful for his gift!” says Nate. “Because of his generosity, I am riding and breathing again, my life evidence of the marvel of organ donation. A friendship established on the court is now a bond of blood and tissue.”
Nate is training intensely for the transplant games, while also acting as a coach, working with cyclists and other athletes. He also is a competitive amateur cyclist.
“Following my liver transplant, the bike provided a path back to mental and physical health,” recalls Nate. “It’s a path that began with crawling and progressed into racing. In fact, I competed at the National Transplant Games in Houston last summer and won both cycling races – the 5K time trial, as well as the 20K. On August 25 and 26, at my World Transplant Games cycling events, I hope to show everyone just what a difference donation makes in giving people a second chance — to chase and catch their dreams. I plan on coming back with the Gold medal!”
*Sierra Donor Services is a Dialysis Clinic Inc. Donor Services (DCIDS) subsidiary. SDS is a nonprofit agency dedicated to meeting the needs of the community by providing families the option of organ and tissue donation for transplantation and research. SDS serves Inland Northern California, including Sacramento, ten surrounding counties, Santa Rosa and Northern Nevada. www.sierradonor.org.