Kenny Davis Jr. was a little nervous when he arrived in Houston for the 2014 Transplant Games of America last month.
"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," Davis said. "I was more nervous when I went into the discus 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."
Davis still is waiting for a phone call from Pittsburgh telling the 27-year-old to come to the hospital for a kidney transplant. However, he said the experience of the games put that in perspective.
Photo by Dave Gossett
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.
"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," Davis said.
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," Davis said.
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 in participating 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," Davis said. "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 any way I can."
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," said Davis.
Davis is now preparing to take classes at Eastern Gateway Community College in the coaching education program, and also plans to continue helping coach track in the area.
"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," Davis said.