Fresh Off Kidney Donation, Man Sets Sights On Triathlon

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities man is coming back from surgery with his sights set on completing the LifeTime Minneapolis Triathlon.

If all goes as planned on July 14, John Barker will cross the finish line at Lake Nokomis. He’s finished triathlons before, a sprint triathlon in 2007 and the longer and more challenging Olympic triathlon in 2008 and 2009.

Barker was hooked on the training after his doctor encourage him to get in shape.

“When you get into a routine like that, it becomes a part of your life. It becomes a part of you,” Barker said.

When Barker decided to put his training on hold for two years, he had a compelling reason. He would donate one of his kidneys to someone he’d just met.

“We only spoke 15 minutes,” he says about meeting the transplant recipient Lee for the first time. “He said he was having difficulties getting around like he used to and told me his kidneys were failing.”

The man was the neighbor to Barker’s parents and says he felt a connection through their faith. The man was delivering holiday baskets to his neighbors when he ad Barker met. Barker was inspired by this man’s generosity.

Barker’s decision to donate an organ was a surprise to his wife Elizabeth.

“I was amazed,” she said. “We’d never talked about anything like this prior.”

The surgery was a success, but the energetic and determined athlete was forced to take it easy, something he wasn’t used to training for triathlons. Weeks later, Barker started working out again, but he was too aggressive and his doctors put his training on hold once again.

“It was difficult,” Elizabeth said. “He couldn’t hardly do anything.”

Once he recovered, Barker says he became complacent around the house. Elizabeth knew what the training and the goals meant to her husband, and encouraged him to start over.

“She’s always been my biggest supporter,” Barker said about his wife.

It’s been two years now since Barker completed a triathlon. He’s already begun training for this year’s LifeTime Minneapolis Olympic Triathlon.

“This one will definitely mean a lot more to me than the other three (triathlons),” he said.

His wife knows how much it will mean as well to see him cross the finish line.

“I’m really proud of him,” she says. “He’s come a long ways.”

Barker says the recipient has made a full recovery and is doing just fine. They’ve become close since the surgery and often talk on the phone.

Barker’s doctors have cleared him to train and compete and Barker says they want him to stay hydrated not to put any more strain on his remaining kidney.


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