"I'm 41 years old but I don't feel it," says Sandy Stone, who lives in Woodbury, CT, with her husband of 17 years, her 13-year-old daughter and a menagerie of animals, including one dog, two cats, two rabbits, two goats, seven chickens, two birds, and several pet hamsters and fish - and one transplanted kidney that she calls "Willy."
If you had asked Sandy this same question ten years ago, she would have said that she felt old. But today, she's full of energy as she gears up for the U.S. Transplant Games on July 11 - 16 in Pittsburgh, where she'll take to the volleyball court as she celebrates her second chance at life.
In fact, kidney disease, the result of a genetic defect, had been part of Sandy Stone's day-to-day life for a long time. Then a pregnancy placed additional stress on her body and within three years of the birth of her daughter, Sandy was in complete kidney failure. Since the wait for a new organ from a deceased donor usually took years, Sandy hoped to obtain one through live donation. She didn't need to look very far. Sandy's mother, Chris Sprague, immediately volunteered for testing to see if she could become a donor. They matched perfectly. "Not too many times do you get to give birth and rebirth to your kids," recalls Chris.
Now the two plan to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Sandy's transplant --July 16th-- at the National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games where Sandy's husband and daughter (they're leaving the animals at home), her in-laws, her best friend and her mother and father will be there to celebrate.
For Sandy, the experience was life-altering. "I don't take anything for granted," she says. "I go out dancing with my friends and try to have fun in any way I can." Stone, who works for the Woodbury Volunteer Ambulance Association, tries to stay in shape. In 2002, she attended her first National Kidney Foundation Transplant Games where she landed a spot on the Team Connecticut volleyball team. Since that time, she has attended the 2004 and 2006 Games. In 2006, she won two gold medals and a bronze in swimming and silver in badminton. In 2008, she'll return to defend her wins and take her spot on the court with her volleyball teammates in hopes of a victory for Team Connecticut.