AKRON, Ohio — Angela Hissner has run three marathons, but her fourth 26.2-mile trek will be the most meaningful for both her and her father, Dan Datkuliak.
On Saturday morning, Hissner, 41, will lace up her shoes and run the Akron Marathon, six months after she donated a kidney to her dad.
"I've never been more excited for a race. This means so much to me this year," Hissner said.
The bond between Hissner, a nurse practitioner from Plain Township, and Datkuliak, a retired Timken Steelworker, was already special before the transplant surgery.
"He's my hero," Hissner said. "I love him. He raised me to be the person I am."
Looking back, Datuliak believes his daughter was bound to be special from birth.
"The day she was born I said, 'We just got an angel', and we named her Angela," he said.
Datkuliak, 69, was dealing with chronic kidney disease, possibly caused by high blood pressure, and dialysis seemed to be in his near future.
"His kidney function was at 15%, so that's end-stage renal failure," Hissner said.
Doctors suggested a kidney transplant and Hissner quickly decided she wanted to be a donor. Last year, she was found to be a match.
"I wanted to give him a kidney if I could. I found out I could," she said.
Datkuliak was touched by the selfless offer by his daughter but was reluctant to take her kidney.
"I didn't want to take her kidney. I was afraid — what if something happens to her other kidney? She insisted this is what we're going to do," he said.
The surgery was scheduled for March of 2021. Hissner admitted she was nervous, unsure of how the surgery would impact her running-- something she loves to do for the natural adrenaline rush and to reduce stress.
"I thought, 'Am I still going to be the same person? Am I going to change? Will I still be able to run?' I got a little selfish for a minute," Hissner said.
The transplant was performed on March 30 at the Cleveland Clinic and it was a success.
"The surgery went great. I got out of surgery and it was kind of like a marathon. When you get done you're like, 'I just did that,'" Hissner said.
"I was sore, but we were in the hospital three days. That was it," Datkuliak added.
A month after the transplant, Hissner signed up for the Akron Marathon. She has put in several long runs and feels ready to tackle the race's famous blue line.
The FirstEngergy Akron Marthon, Half Marathon and Team Relay will see more than 7,000 participants. It starts at 7 a.m. on Broadway Street near Market Street. The course highlights North Hill, the University of Akron, Firestone Park, the Ohio Erie Canalway Towpath Trail, Sand Run Metro Park and West Akron.
Hissner is not only running for herself and her dad. She's also raising money for Kidney Donor Athletes, an organization that supports donors and creates organ donation awareness.
So far, she has raised more than $3,700 of her $5,000 goal.
"There are so many people out there that need a liver, a kidney, anything, and the waiting list is so long," Hissner said. "I'm not saying everyone has to be a living donor because that's a huge, huge decision but put it on your license."
Datkuliak believes "his angel" saved his life and on marathon day — a true test of endurance — the bond between dad and daughter will endure.
"I will definitely be at the marathon," he said. "I'll be the loudest cheerer there."