By Peter Laird, MD
Shad Ireland is one step closer to a lifelong dream of competing in the Ironman World Championship at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii by charging into first place in the Kona Inspired competition. A little of two weeks ago, Shad was a long shot with over 25,000 votes to make up. In a remarkable turn around, Shad leaped into first place today now with over 43,000 votes and climbing. The dream of competing in the Kona Ironman World Championship saved Shad's life through inspiration. Shad remembers where he came from and wants to use the Ironman competition as platform to bring attention to the plight of the American dialysis patient languishing in disability. Many well known athletes are already standing tall with Shad as he prepares to re-enter the triathalon racing circuit. (here) In 2004, Shad became the first dialysis patient to complete a full Ironman competition and is still the only one.
IronShad the Ironman
I am proud of my Ironman accomplishment. It was one of the hardest things I have ever earned in my life. Yes friends I earned the right to be included into a very special group of athletes, athletes who understand pain, dedication, perseverance, and sacrifice. We all bleed on that 140.6-mile journey together. The mind leads and the body painfully follows. Ironman training taught me to become comfortable with being uncomfortable for long periods of time. It also saved my life, and it made me the man that I am today. A man dedicated to the service of others. A man who understands the gift of athletics and the influence we yield as athletes.
A close friend said to me last week, “Why are you returning to Ironman? You have already climbed that mountain. It’s not like you have to climb it every week. What are you trying to prove?” My return to Ironman is personal and public. Personally, I am returning to the sport of triathlon and specifically Ironman distance because I made a promise to myself and I have a dream to fulfill. We all chase Kona in our dreams! Publicly I am trying to inspire a community that has for the most part become disconnected and given up. I see my reflection in the eyes of the patients I meet everyday. I see the debilitated man I used to be and I feel a responsibility to reach out and take every hand and lead them out of the nightmare that a CKD/ESRD diagnosis delivers.
Life expectancy for someone given this diagnosis is only 2-5 years without a kidney transplant. The median wait time for a transplant is now almost 6 years! The odds are stacked against us but if I can continue to pursue my dreams after 3 decades with this disease then the 1o year old boy who I met two weeks ago who sits connected to a dialysis machine 6 hours a day, 3 days a week can hold on tightly to his dream of becoming an athlete, a Fireman, an Actor, and President of the United States!
I am now coming into my 30th year of living with this disease. My return to racing represents the possibility of it all! At the end of the day I want others to understand that despite my diagnosis I am pursuing my dreams and living my life. I am living the Ironman mantra, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
(See Shad's Schedule here)
Several companies are now sponsoring Shad including Argon Bicycles, Rudy Project, and Shimano. Sadly, to date, despite all that Shad has done for the renal community, he has no sponsors currently from any of the dialysis industry outside of Amgen and Ascend Clinical who are supporting Baseline, an interactive self help program for renal patients through the Shad Ireland Foundation. Shad continues to demonstrate his perseverance to accomplish his goals and to help others do the same. Join me in voting for Shad who is our representative for renal disease and wants to bring his message of hope to Kona. If you haven't voted yet, please do vote for our own dialysis champion now in first place at Kona Inspired. I know Shad appreciates all of your support which he deserves and much more.