Transplant gives Lake in the Hills woman second chance to swim

Set to compete at Transplant Games

Inside of a roughly 25-yard-long pool at Lifetime Fitness in Algonquin, Agnes Rapacz wears a swimming cap and goggles as she does freestyle laps.

Her coach, Nancy Leibforth, has a stopwatch to keep track of the time as Rapacz works on her endurance, strength and turns when she does laps.

“You’re back to 40 [seconds],” Leibforth said. “It looks like you tuckered out the last half, but the flip turn was nice.”

Rapacz, a 39-year-old Lake in the Hills resident, is practicing her freestyle and breaststroke because she plans to compete in July at the Transplant Games of America in Houston.

Swimming on a regular basis again is something she decided to do after she received a “second chance at life.”

One day in January 2002, Rapacz woke up and had trouble breathing. She went to the doctor, who did some tests. The next thing she knew she was told to get to the hospital. She had kidney failure and needed a transplant.

“It came out of nowhere,” Rapacz said.

After waiting 11 months on the transplant list, her sister, Wanda Roguzinska, who lives in Poland, donated a kidney.

“It’s nice to spread the word of organ donations and help give another chance to someone else,” Rapacz said.

When Rapacz grew up in Poland, she was an avid swimmer and worked as a lifeguard. When she immigrated to the U.S., however, she didn’t have time to swim.

Going through the kidney failure and the transplant changed the activity level of Rapacz, who runs TeaGscwendner, a tea company.

Life after the transplant requires medications that can be bad on a person’s bones, Rapacz said. Doctors encouraged her to exercise regularly and be active.

Rapacz’s annual checkups at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, show she is healthy and has the healthy bones of a younger person, she said.

“The transplant gave me the extra kick,” Rapacz said. “’Hey, you have the second chance at life. Why don’t you do something that you like?’”

Rapacz also likes kickboxing and cycling.

Dr. Thomas Schwab, the medical director of the Kidney Transplant Program at the Mayo Clinic, said it is important for transplant recipients to take care of themselves by taking their medications, eating healthy and exercising.

He also has gone to the Transplant Games.

“I think it’s absolutely terrific to have our patients participate in the Transplant Games,” Schwab said. “Everyone who participates is a winner or champion in the games.”

Rapacz began competing in the Transplant Games in 2010, but she said the games don’t receive much recognition. The competitions in swimming, basketball, track and field, and volleyball, among others, are open to living donors, organ transplant recipients, bone marrow recipients, and a limited number of corneal and tissue transplant recipients, according to the Transplant Games’ website.

“I noticed the games are not popular, are not advertised, and I know there’s so many people who can participate in it,” Rapacz said.

Rapacz swims in the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke and the 50- and 100-meter freestyle. She has won medals at Transplant Games in Madison, Wisconsin; Sweden; and South Africa.

After competing in Houston, she plans to swim in the European Transplant Games in August in Krakow, Poland.

“Especially with the medication I’m taking, it’s just good for me to keep myself in good healthy condition,” Rapacz said. “I feel good when I swim. I’m a fish in the water.”