My life my adventure

A young athlete

“I don’t regret being ill. It is thanks to my illness that I have met so many wonderful people.” – Krystyna Murdzek, President of the Polish Transplant Sports Association (Polskie Stowarzyszenie Sportu po Transplantacji).

Starting with her physical education (PE) lessons at school, Krystyna always liked to exercise and run. She began training in cross-country skiing and responded well to the hard training regime. Nothing told her that her kidneys weren’t working properly.

First symptoms

During her first year at university, Krystyna suffered from pyelonephritis, a urinary tract infection, for the first time, but did her best to ignore it. After her graduation, she started working as a PE teacher and cross-country skiing coach.

“When I was first told that I would need dialysis in the future, I was 31 years old. That was in 1984.” However, her condition remained stable for another 10 years, and Krystyna was able to follow her dreams of being a coach. She became a coach and coordinator for cross-country skiers with slight learning disabilities. One of her athletes won a silver medal at the championships in Sweden. After this success, Krystyna started to train six skiers who were preparing for the Paralympics in Nagano in 1998.

“At that time, my creatinine level was 4.12 mg/dl. But I didn’t care: I was more focused on the Paralympics and other upcoming events.” In March 2000, her creatinine level nearly reached 8.00 mg/dl, so her doctors carried out a surgical procedure to create an arteriovenous fistula.

Dialysis

“My first dialysis took place on 2nd January 2001 - at the very beginning of the 21st century.” Krystyna explains that she had to be started on dialysis because she was very ill. Her face and her legs were swelling up. She had trouble getting out of bed and occasionally experienced bleeding from her mouth. At first, she was devastated and afraid of the new way of life, but after just one month of dialysis, Krystyna got used to her new situation. She knew that she would still be a coach and she developed a new routine, integrating dialysis into her schedule. She kept going on this basis for 11 months.

Kidney transplant

“I was hoping for a transplant from my very first dialysis session. It was my biggest dream.” Her transplant surgery took place in a clinic in Warsaw in November 2001. The principal surgeon was Andrzej Chmura, MD, PhD. For Krystyna, it was a time to stop and think about her life. “I was given a second chance, but only because somebody else had lost their life.” Krystyna is grateful that through this suffering she was able to receive the most precious gift that anyone can share with another human being. She is well aware that she was extremely fortunate to receive a transplant after just 11 months of dialysis. Some people have to wait several years for a new organ.

Association

The Polish Transplant Sports Association was established in 2005. Its main founders were Prof. Andrzej Chmura, surgeon and transplant specialist, and Master’s graduate Krystyna Murdzek. Before this, also in 2005, they had worked together on organising the first worldwide sports event for children following a transplant to take place in Poland. The association promotes organ donation and encourages physical activity among people with transplants and those who are on dialysis. “Our main activities include sports, recreation and physical therapy. We do our best to break down the social and psychological barriers.” The association’s athletes have already won 449 medals at the World Games. Its greatest achievement was organising the 8th European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Championships in Krakow in 2014. Of the 22 competing countries, the team from Poland came second.

Dialysis for the second time

A transplanted organ doesn’t function forever. Sixteen years after her surgery, Krystyna had to start dialysis again. In August 2017, she was admitted for treatment at the Fresenius Medical Care Dialysis Centre in Krosno. She began preparing for a transplant immediately, and after a month and a half she was on the waiting list. “I am waiting, I am working in the Association, and I am training. It isn’t easy, as I’m 17 years older than I was the first time around, but I won’t give up.” During each dialysis session, Krystyna exercises with dumbbells, working on her legs and arms to be stronger after the procedure. She shares her knowledge with the other patients at the centre in Krosno. Her goal for the future is to prepare the team for the European Championships in Cagliari, Italy, and to organise sports events in Poland.

“I am following my dreams: my book, Moje drugie narodzenie (My Second Birth) was published in 2005, I took part in the Paralympics in Nagano in 1998 and in Vancouver in 2010. I have been awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta for my achievements in the world of sport with disabled people. I have represented Poland seven times and won 45 medals in athletics, swimming, tennis, shooting events, darts, skiing and biathlon. In 2005, I was crowned world champion in long jump at the World Transplant Games in Canada.

From 2005 to 2010, I was a member of the Presidential Committee of the European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Federation. Sport has given me the opportunity to visit many interesting countries.”