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Kidney donor’s impulsive walk from Toronto to Hamilton spurred by need to stay fit

Oscar Amaya says his epic 21-hour walk from a Toronto mall to Hamilton Beach was “definitely long and difficult,” especially when he went down to a single shoe due to a blistered foot.

The 25-year-old from the GTA admits the whole idea was impulsive, spurred on by a necessary lifestyle change that allowed him to donate a kidney to a sister in need.

“After donating my kidney, I always felt I was somewhat limited towards what I can and can’t do. That didn’t sit right with me,” Amaya said.

“I really wanted to do something that is challenging for me … and make sure that I see it to the end.”

The aspiring TikTok fitness influencer says the 75-kilometre trek was motivated by a need to ensure sustainability now that he will go through life with a single kidney.

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“That’s like, no drinking, no smoking, eating a proper diet and getting good exercise,” Amaya said.

Up to this point, the longest trek he’d done by foot was 10 kilometres in Toronto’s Under Armour dash last June.

Packing only a jacket, an extra pair of socks, two apples and a litre of water, the swim instructor left Yorkville Shopping Center with two friends, Trayvon Douglas and Joshua Lake, just before 4:30 a.m. on May 4.

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Their chosen path took them down Dufferin Street to Lakeshore Drive and then straight on through Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington with just a few breaks at a couple of gas stations.

His buddy Joshua tapped out in Mississauga due to fatigue, and Amaya had to ditch a shoe in Oakville due to blisters on his right foot.

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“I had to wrap a T-shirt around my foot just so that I could continue walking,” he recalled. “At one point, I looked up and was like, ‘Where’s my shoe?’ So if somebody finds it in Hamilton, let me know.”

Prior to booking his Uber ride home, Amaya says his Fitbit registered a one-day journey of 104,573 steps.

Amaya’s sister Sabirna Cruz, 31, was diagnosed with kidney failure back in 2021 and after seeing her go through the rigors of dialysis for three or four years, he decided it was time to donate an organ.

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“Just the pain that would cause her, the two or three treatments that she would have to do daily, that really took a toll,” he said.

After tests confirmed he was a suitable donor, Amaya had to shed about a third of his 330-pound frame to become a viable candidate.

“I was able to shred down my weight all the way down to two hundred pounds,” he said.

Since the transplant, Amaya says Cruz has a second life, having lost 30 pounds and the energy to once again walk up and down the stairs and start her own fitness journey.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada (KFOC) estimates there are some 52,000 Canadians being treated for kidney failure with 57 per cent on dialysis.

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In 2023, the agency estimated one in ten Canadians has kidney disease with 3,100 people waiting for a transplant with a median wait time of three years and seven months.

Amaya hopes to go even farther in his next trek, potentially starting between Barrie and Vaughan and ending in Niagara Falls.

“I definitely want to make my next one more challenging than the first, this time with proper footwear,” said Amaya.

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