Biking, hiking & living life – Catching up with cross-country cyclist and living kidney donor

July 24, 2020 - This BC-based cyclist rolled across the country on her #GiftFromWithin tour on a mission to raise awareness about organ donation in 2016. We caught up with living kidney donor Eileen Zheng for an update (married now to Nicholas and still an avid cyclist with plans to return to school), and to find out what the tour meant to her.

Eileen said it is hard to pinpoint just one element, but going back through her journey, she decided the highlight of the cross-Canada tour was the people. “People were coming out to meet me and they were so supportive,” she said. “I initially had budgeted between $4 – 5,000 for the ride, but with all of the offers of food, accommodations and bike repairs, the total came in under $3,000.”

Eileen fondly recalls the press event at the Garden of Life and meeting with Transplant Manitoba staff and local Canadian Transplant Association members. “I remember the Manitoba team and media coming out to cheer me on and it was extremely encouraging and I felt like I was what I was doing mattered and was noticed,” she said. “These friendly Manitobans definitely gave me more motivation, and I’ve been using the Garden of Life as my profile picture on Gift From Within since that day!”

Her goal was to share one message – that organ donation can save lives – and she wanted her message to have meaning, to resonate and to start conversations. “The more conversations we have about it, the less intimidating and foreign it becomes,” she explained. Throughout her tour, Eileen raised over $13,500 that she donated to the Canadian Transplant Association to support its work on promoting organ donation awareness, a cause close to her heart.

Nine months after transplant surgery, Eileen and her mom completed a four-hour snowshoe trek and her mom has been blazing forward ever since. “I had never seen her do something like that before – I didn’t know she had it in her!” Knowing her mom has the energy to keep up with her grandchildren and that her kidney continues to work well is why Eileen remains involved in awareness work through various cycling events and speaking at elementary and high schools. Shine on Eileen!