Philadelphia Marathon: A loved one's selfless act

Thousands of people will converge on Philadelphia to watch this weekend’s marathon activities, so we set out to find a pairing of runner-and-spectator who might have an added incentive, or a little something extra to root for than a personal record or finishing in a certain time.

Meet Ashley and Maquia Kincaid, who are first cousins. Ashley isn’t just a spectator—she’s the Assistant Director of Operations for the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon. And Maquia isn’t just a runner—she’s a living organ donor.

On March 27 of this year, Maquia donated a kidney to Ashley, who was diagnosed with lupus back in 2002. The condition led to kidney failure, and Ashley received her first donated kidney from her mother, Anita Poteat, in 2004.

In 2011, the kidney began to fail, so the search for a donor began anew. “I put it on Facebook, just reaching out and saying I needed a kidney,” explain Ashley. “Sure enough, Maquia stepped up and agreed to be tested.”

Growing up, Ashley was raised in Florida but spent summers with her cousin in North Carolina. When Ashley moved to Philadelphia to get her master’s degree from Temple University, she’d occasionally travel to Washington, D.C. to visit Maquia and her daughter. In a large family, the two cousins were close not only in age but in spirit.

So when Ashley’s time of need arose last fall, Maquia was right here in Philadelphia for the 2012 Half-Marathon. The next morning, she was in Tampa, Fla. for her first evaluation to become a kidney donor. The surgery itself took place in Tampa in late March.

Since the transplant, Maquia says she feels ‘normal.’

“For the first two months [after the transplant], I wasn’t at full strength of course,” she recalls. “But then I started some light jogging, and I finished a 10K [in late October.] I’m back at the same weight, I’m eating the same foods… I feel normal.”

Pressed for any adjustments she’s had to make, Maquia allows that she’s no longer able to anti-inflammatory medicines before running anymore. “Maybe I should eat healthier?” she asks. “Really, everything is back to normal.”

The most striking thing talking to Maquia is just how unimpressed, how… well, normal, this all seems to her. For someone who’s done something so heroic, so selfless, talking with Maquia leaves you with the impression that this wasn’t much different than lending Ashley her car for a weekend road trip. She doesn’t see herself as a hero; just a friend, a cousin, helping out her loved one when she needed a favor.

“I just hope that people are inspired to give and donate,” says Maquia. “I feel like the world could be so much better with people that really understand the true meaning of loving and giving! We are not meant to stay on this living earth forever, so while I'm here I will give and share as much as possible.”

The future prognosis seems bright. “Checkups have been great—in early October, we were back in Tampa for our six-month checkup and we did fine,” laughs Ashley.  “I feel great—before, I could run a mile or two, and I was drained—straight to bed. Now, I feel like I can proceed like a normal person!”

“I’ve been fortunate to have a great boss, great co-workers—who were extremely understanding last year when I was struggling. Kidney failure—it’s not like some conditions, where it was obvious that I was sick. But they were understanding and accommodating.”

Now that’s she’s back to full strength, though, Ashley embraces the hard work of putting on the marathon events for the 30,000 people—like her cousin—who will race down this Parkway this weekend

Similar to Maquia, Ashley doesn’t come across as someone who’s surviving an ordeal daily. Her lighthearted, almost jovial approach to her condition is as striking as Maquia’s reluctance to be seen as a hero. Ashley will allow one slight concession, however.

“I would have to say she’s definitely my favorite cousin now,” she laughs.

Ashley’s work schedule, and Maquia’s short stay, will prevent the cousins from spending too much time together this weekend. Hopefully, the two will be able to share brunch one day this weekend or have a short visit. The true reunion will come next May, when Ashley and Maquia plan to run the Healthy Kidney 10K together in New York City.

“The race will be just after our one-year transplant anniversary, which is a pretty big deal in terms of kidney donation,” shares Ashley.

For her part, Ashley is also a runner. She’s never done a half-marathon like her cousin, but with the help of the organ that she lovingly calls “Maquidney” she figures that’s all about to change.

“I think I got her running kidney,” laughs Ashley. “So I figure I’ll be much faster this time!”

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