Feature by Jeff Commings
Courtesy of: Asa Keimig
Courtesy of: Asa Keimig
BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 7. LIKE athletes at every major sporting competition, those who attend next summer's Transplant Games of America will arrive with a hunger to win gold medals. But that's not the only reason they will gather in Houston for the four-day event next July.
They will celebrate the joy of simply being alive, since many of them would not be able to walk the distance of a football field if not for a lifesaving organ, tissue or bone marrow transplant.
Asa Keimig is one of those people. He hopes to participate in the swimming competition at the Transplant Games, and since there is no federation or team that fully funds these athletes, he has started a fundraiser. All told, Keimig said he'll need $1,300 to be able to take part in the Transplant Games. As of today, he's halfway there.
The chance to represent Team Maryland next summer at the Transplant Games is an opportunity Keimig does not want to miss. He wants to mingle with others who have stories to tell of their miraculous transplants, but the athlete deeply rooted in him wants hardware as well.
"I don't know many people, if any, that train and compete to get second or third place," he said via e-mail. "Everyone trains to win."
Keimig was born 23 years ago with a rare hereditary kidney disorder called Alport syndrome. With no cure available, lifelong dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant were the only options. Keimig got a transplant in 2005 and has been living what he describes as a more blessed life.
"Having a kidney transplant forced me to grow up faster than most people would want to," he said. "With my transplant came so many new responsibilities. It gave me a different outlook on life. I stopped taking everything around me for granted and started looking at every opportunity, every friendship, and every moment of everyday life as a blessing."
Despite not being healthy enough to attend school on a regular basis, Keimig was an active child. He played lacrosse and competed for Liberty University. Swimming was always a part of his life, though it involved recreational swimming and spur-of-the-moment races, which he said he always won.
"Unfortunately, I don't have the extensive background that Michael Phelps has, even though we grew up within a short distance from each other," he said.
Keimig trains three days a week in the pool, supplementing that with running and weightlifting. He said he'll increase his pool time early next year in preparation for the Transplant Games, doing double workouts seven days a week and complementing that with running or weightlifting.
"After four years of playing college lacrosse, it instilled a fitness junkie mentality that has yet to leave me," he said.
That might translate into a multiple-medal haul. Keimig plans to swim the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles in Houston, and is still undecided about the 500 free.
Team Maryland is coordinating Asa Keimig's fundraising efforts. To learn more about donating, send Keimig an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video of Keimig promoting his fundraising efforts: