Taking a look at Kendall Barnes’s fitness routine, you’d swear he was 27, not 57. The New Yorker teaches swimming to kids at the Harlem YMCA, runs six miles in Van Cortlandt Park and competes in the 100-meter relay for the Harlem Honeys and Bears, his local swim team. And those are just his weekend activities. Where, you may wonder, does someone who battled kidney disease for 10 years of his life get so much energy?
“From Betsy,” he says with a grin as wide as all outdoors. “Betsy” is the name he gave to the transplanted kidney he received 15 years ago. (For privacy reasons, recipients generally do not know the name of the donor, so Barnes picked the first name that came to mind after his operation.) “Without her, I wouldn’t be alive today,” he says.
Barnes and Betsy have won nine gold medals in the Transplant Games, an Olympic-style competition open to anyone who’s had a heart, kidney or other organ transplanted. He hopes to continue his winning streak this August in Manchester, Great Britain, where he’ll run and swim against nearly 1,000 athletes from about 40 countries at the World Transplant Games.
Named 1992 Best Male Athlete of the Year by his fellow athletes at the U.S. Transplant Games in Los Angeles, Barnes has a secret strategy for success: “Before each race I rub my side and say, `Okay, Betsy, let’s go.’ ”
**Inspirational story published on AliveByNature.com