To say my family is important to me would be an understatement. They’ve always been phenomenal supporters of me and my dreams. This support started well before I took my first swimming lesson at the age of five, continued through my teenage years when I found my passion for swimming competitively, and persisted at 17 when I won four gold medals in my Olympic debut at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. It has been a reliable constant throughout my entire career—and life—and has helped shape me into the woman I am today.
So needless to say, when my dad was diagnosed with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD)—which is a rare, genetic condition that causes cysts to form on the kidneys, eventually leading to a decline in kidney function and requiring a need for dialysis or a transplant—it was the beginning of an emotional road for me and my family.
I retired from professional swimming in 2018 due to injury, and as difficult as that was, it allowed me to fully support my family the way they had always supported me. Around the same time, my dad’s health began to decline.
Since his original diagnosis, he had been able to live his life to the fullest thanks to the management of the disease by his care team. But by the fall of 2019, his kidneys really started to struggle. This was an especially difficult time for my family, especially my mother, who was his primary caregiver.
In early 2022, we learned that my father’s ADPKD was rapidly progressing. His nephrologist discussed a harsh reality with us: potential kidney failure and the limited treatment options for it. These discussions included the possibility of starting dialysis so that a machine could do the work his kidneys could no longer do. We also explored getting a kidney transplant, and we knew finding a living kidney donor would give him the best chance at success,