Ironman Dialysis Patient Speaks Out
Triathlete Shad Ireland spreads a message of hope and perseverance to East Bay dialysis centers.
Courtesy of Shad Ireland
Ironman triathlete Shad Ireland paid a visit to Walnut Creek’s Fresenius Medical Care Monday to speak with dialysis patients and share his unique story.
A 36-year dialysis patient, Ireland suffers from Renal disease, a debilitating illness that has permanently shut down his kidneys. The disease requires Ireland to undergo a routine five-hour dialysis treatment every four days. Undaunted by the heavy physical and mental challenges of his disease Ireland has learned to push onward, and on July 25, 2004, he became the first dialysis patient to compete in—and complete—the demanding Ironman Triathlon competition.
Since his successful 2004 Ironman Triathlon Shad’s desire has been to raise awareness for dialysis patients and to motivate other chronically ill people to take a proactive look at what they can achieve. Today, Ireland has his own team, Team Shad, and has created the Shad Ireland Foundation (shadirelandfoundation.org), which helps raise money for dialysis and chronically ill patients to improve their quality of life through physical fitness and education.
“We’re trying to give [dialysis and chronically ill patients] the tools on how they can change their lives and start feeling better,” Ireland said. He explained that a large part of self-empowerment for patients is setting personal goals, whether that be something as simple as walking to the mail box or walking around the block.
“Getting patients to believe that they can change their situation is critical,” Ireland said.
Yet, he also said that he understands that the process for change isn’t easy and talked with dialysis patients at the medical center about his own journey after he was diagnosed with Renal disease.
“At age 10 I began dialysis, and at age 16 I was told I wouldn’t live past 25,” Ireland said. Later, at age 18, Ireland underwent a failed kidney transplant that resulted in him weighing only 75 pounds and falling into a coma. He said that when he was finally released from the hospital, his parents were told that he would only have six months to live and to plan funeral arrangements.
“Dialysis was difficult for me. I really struggled. I was your quintessential non-compliant patient. I had no hope,” Ireland said.
He explained that the turning point came later and gradually. Ireland mentioned one experience that stood out in his mind. It came while he was recuperating from his coma. He said that he remembers watching the 1997 Ironman competition on TV for the first time and being inspired by triathletes Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham as they collapsed yards from the finish line and crawled the remaining distance (CLICK HERE to see the video footage). Ireland said that when those runners began to crawl forward, that’s when something jumped inside him.
“At that moment I remember sitting on the couch and thinking to myself, just cheering for her and wanting to know what drove her. At that moment, whatever it was she had, I wanted. And it was that afternoon that I made a promise to myself that that was going to be me someday,” Ireland said.
Looking back on his past experiences, he said smiling that he is 36 going on 15. “I didn’t get to do the things I wanted to do as a kid, but now, I’m doing the things that I was told that I would never have the chance to do.”
His visit on Monday was part of a nationwide tour to help and raise awareness of dialysis patients. In May Ireland will begin a new journey where he will ride his bike across the country beginning in Los Angeles and ending in Washington D.C.For more information go to shadirelandfoundation.org or ironshad.com