VERSAILLES — Kara Didier, married and the mother of three, can’t wait until June when she can compete at the Transplant Games of America in Cleveland.
What makes her eligible? She underwent a double-lung transplant July 18, 2012.
“April is Donate Life month, and in June of this year Cleveland will be hosting the Transplant Games of America, in which I will be attending and competing,” she said. “I’m very excited to be able to partake in the games and can’t wait for June to get here.”
Didier described her health as “good.”
“I am currently going every three to four months for checkups,” she said. “I have a little bit of reflux going on, which is normal after a transplant. My Pulmonary Function Test numbers fluctuate, and I have had more than a dozen bronchoscopies.”
She said her first experience with transplants was when they were visiting a hospital where her youngest son Cameron was a patient.
“When we got there, we saw a 9-year-old girl who had a transplant,” she recalled. “It was so amazing I often wonder about her.”
Kara said she was officially diagnosed with Bronchiolitis Obliterans, which is also called BOOP.
“The “OP” part is ‘Organizing Pneumonia,’ but I’ve never have pneumonia,” she said. “BOOP is also called ‘popcorn lung’ in which many popcorn factory workers have gotten this disease because of the chemicals in microwave popcorn. Said chemicals have since been removed from microwave popcorn products. Bronchiolitis Obliterans is actually the name for chronic rejection of the lungs. Both are confusing. I’ve always called my disease Bronchiolitis Obliterans because I obtained my disease from an autoimmune disease. Whereas BOOP, I believe, is obtained from harsh chemicals causing damage to the bronchioles and airways in a different way.”
She said she has made friends with other BOOP people like her online.
“Four of us keep in contact,” she said. “Our disease is caused by autoimmune diseases. Mine and another girl’s was from rheumatoid arthritis and another was by her Lupus, and I’m not sure about the other one. We’re living proof that organ donation can work.”
The only thing Kara knows about her donor is that she was a young woman
“I’m more thankful everyday to my donor,” she said.
She said the main reason for the transplant games is for awareness and to educate people on the need for organ donations.
“There are 123,000 on the list for organ donations,” Didier said. “The waiting list is far bigger than what Ohio State stadium can hold.”
The games are held every two years with this year’s games set for June 10-15. The last one was held in Houston, Texas.
Didier is not sure who is going to be accompanying her to the games since the date conflicts with Poultry Days, Versailles’ biggest festival.
“It’s a wait and see thing,” she said.
Her plans are to compete in bowling for sure. However, there are also such events as track and field, volleyball, basketball, swimming, bocce, Texas Hold ‘em, cornhole and darts from which to choose.
“You can only do one event a day,” Didier explained. “I will do the 5K on Saturday and all of the recipients will be participating in the opening ceremony Olympic-style. On Sunday night, the Quarter Century Club Dinner will be held for anyone who had a transplant 25 years ago. It will be held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And, there will be a beach party one night.”
The reason she chose bowling is that last year a friend asked her if she wanted to join a bowling league.
“So, I gave it a shot” she said. “I enjoy bowling and hope to stay on the league.”
To get ready for her performance at the games, she is trying to exercise more and lift weights.
She has the support of her whole family, which includes husband Doug and their three children, Austin, Alexa and Cameron. Cameron himself went through health issues after his birth on April 26, 13 years ago. He was diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta.
“He is doing well; he goes to the doctor once a year,” said Kara. “He’s shot up; he used to be stocky. Now, he’s a string bean and tall.”
Son Austin, she said, is seeing Danielle Nestor, while daughter Alexa will be 15 on July 19.
“I took my first breath with my new lungs on her birthday,” Kara remembered.
The Didiers will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in August. The couple had met on Broadway in Greenville,
“That’s when it was okay to cruise Broadway,” she said. “We met in 1991, started dating in 1995 and got married in 1996.”
She is a 1995 Arcanum High School graduate and attended Wright State University for one year. She has worked for Second National Bank, Phelan Insurance, at Bella Baby’s Photography and for Versailles schools in the computer lab.
She is finding it difficult for someone to hire her because of the transplant.
“I stay busy with photography,” said Kara, daughter of Doug and Aloha (Coning) Neff. “And, I do a lot of volunteering with Life Connection of Ohio.”
Her favorite quote, she said, is “And, she lives on.” That is what she now has tattooed on her left rear shoulder.
“It means I live on because of my donor and my donor lives on because of me.”
Those wanting to know more about the transplant games can go to the website: http://www.transplantgamesofamerica.org