July 13, 2023

One year after kidney donation, living donor keeps on rolling

Dave Daniels
Dave Daniels

Cyclist determined to ride 4,000 miles in 2023

MADISON, Wis. – Dave Daniels spends 12 hours a week on his bicycle, rolling through the lush woods and country highways near his home in Rhinelander.

He has cycled thousands of miles from Wisconsin to the west coast and the east coast and is convinced it is the best way to see the country.

“Going along at five, 10 miles per hour, really allows you to take in the beauty of the landscape,” Daniels said. “When you slow down, you can truly appreciate all the amazing places and people along the way.”

As he pedals, Daniels has plenty of time to consider what he wants to do in retirement. In early 2022, the 72-year-old plotted a 600-mile bike ride around Montana as well as a visit to the UW Health Transplant Center.

“I started thinking about becoming a living kidney donor about three years ago and had just put it on hold,” he said. “Two of my friends made the decision to donate and had been encouraging me to get checked out, so I did.”

Daniels traveled to Madison in January 2022 to be evaluated. Upon learning that his donation would not affect his ability to take cross-country rides, he made his donation in July 2022. The transplant surgery was performed by Dr. Jacqueline Garonzik Wang, director of the UW Health Kidney Transplant Program, and associate professor of surgery, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

“There are multiple options for people to donate a kidney, meaning donors do not need to match the blood type of their intended recipient,” Garonzik Wang said. “Kidney exchanges through the National Kidney Registry allow anyone who is able to donate the opportunity to be a lifesaving hero to someone who is waiting.”

Daniels joined the company of nearly 4,000 living donors who have donated through the UW Health Transplant Center, according to Dr. Joshua Mezrich, director of the UW Health Living Kidney Donation Program, and professor of surgery, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

“Donors such as Dave show you can maintain an active lifestyle after donation,” Mezrich said. “With more than 90,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a new kidney, living donation is an incredible way to make a lifesaving gift.”

Daniels said he was fully recovered and resumed taking long bike rides three months after his surgery. Due to his donation, he didn’t tally as many miles as he usually does in a year. A small price to pay, he said.

“I don’t know who got my kidney, but making an anonymous donation made sense to me because it meant someone who had a lot of limitations was able to wake up one day and be almost limitless,” Daniels said.

Shortly before the one-year anniversary of his kidney donation in July, the now 73-year-old and a friend biked from Dane County to Trempealeau County, pushing Daniels 155 miles closer to his 4,000-mile goal. He is planning a longer trip from Minnesota to Montana soon.