Edison grad has miles of mettle

Meet Orange County's toughest athlete of the month.

He's not scuffing the court in the NBA Finals. He didn't pitch a perfect game or lose one on a blown call. He's probably never going to make a sports page of any kind. But even if David Shandling isn't big-league material, his mettle would impress a Hall of Famer.

Shandling, a 28-year-old Huntington Beach resident and Edison High School graduate, will be among those walking in the Inaugural Orange County Kidney Walk on Saturday at UC Irvine. The noncompetitive two-mile trek, sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation, invites participants to assemble teams, solicit pledges and make donations.

In short, the purpose of the event is to benefit people like Shandling, who was diagnosed with kidney disease at age 3 and has fought it on and off ever since.

Right now, he's on the waiting list for a new kidney, which, with his blood type, can take up to 10 years.

Shandling has limited energy to exude after his three dialysis sessions a week, but he plans to be at the starting line Saturday with two dozen family members and friends.

"After dialysis, you just feel wiped out," said Shandling. "I come home, and I just have to rest a couple of hours."

It's a hard life, but Shandling knows he's not alone. According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 26 million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease, with 367,000 on dialysis and 83,000 on waiting lists for a kidney transplant.

Before his kidney failed in 2005, Shandling worked as a clerk at Blockbuster. He's taking theater classes at Golden West College and hopes to secure another full-time job as soon as his weeks open up. Every dialysis session lasts four hours, which Shandling divides into one hour of reading the sports section, two hours of sleeping and one hour of watching TV.

As you might imagine, he has a list of things he'd like to do as soon as he gets a new kidney. For one, he'd like to swim, which he can't do with a catheter. He'd like to eat chocolate and salty foods, and drink Coke. And he'd like to travel to Europe. Right now, he's limiting his trips to within the United States, where he can guarantee he won't be charged an exorbitant fee for dialysis.

"I like to go to Vegas a lot," he said. "I can do that."

For Shandling, and for those too weak to walk, I hope the Kidney Walk gets a sizable turnout. I've known at least two people who suffered kidney failure, and it's a painful experience for them and their loved ones. And though his two-mile walk may not look like much at a distance, I salute him for his toughness on the field.

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