A few month after Lee awoke with a physique that didn’t really feel like her personal, her docs shut her down from coaching and competing, and on April 3, Lee introduced she was ending her sophomore season early because of a “non-gymnastics health-related challenge involving my kidneys.”
The kidneys, the 2 bean-shaped organs positioned under your rib cage on each side of your backbone, are every made up of roughly 1,000,000 nephrons—microscopic tubes with mini filters which can be crucial for preserving the physique’s fluid and mineral content material balanced and blood stress managed. Blood flows right into a cluster of tiny blood vessels referred to as the glomerulus, which removes waste and extra water from the blood. These filtered substances then turn out to be urine.
With a situation like Lee’s, the kidney tissue can ultimately present indicators of harm and scarring. “When scarring [on the kidneys] happens, it tends to turn out to be a little bit of a vicious cycle,” Debbie Gipson, MD, this system director within the Division of Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Illnesses on the Nationwide Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Illnesses, tells SELF. “The physique is reacting to that harm and harm begets harm.” Because the kidneys’ filters turn out to be infected or broken, it turns into more durable for the organs to clear waste and extra fluid from the physique, Dr. Gipson, who isn’t treating Lee, explains. When that occurs, blood and protein can leak into urine, and signs like swelling and fatigue can manifest.
Lee has shared the identify of her present prognosis with SELF off the document, however her medical staff believes it could change as they proceed to grasp what’s occurring inside her physique, so she is preserving it personal for now. Whereas multiple in seven individuals might develop power kidney illness of their lifetime, Lee’s situation isn’t frequent, and there’s no treatment but. Remedy usually includes a drugs routine to assist handle signs, however Lee’s care plan is a piece in progress.
As an elite athlete, Lee’s physique is her instrument. There’s an intimacy and consciousness borne from years spent testing her limits and turning into extraordinarily acquainted with each nook and cranny, each energy and weak spot. Now, in a single day, her physique felt utterly overseas. She was presupposed to be preparing for the postseason. She was presupposed to be celebrating her closing collegiate season. She was about to show 20. As an alternative, she questioned, What’s improper with me?
Whereas Lee says it feels good to have a greater concept of what’s occurring together with her well being, to know that there could possibly be a path to getting higher, a prognosis additionally solidifies that one thing is improper. It was a heartbreaking and complicated realization that left Lee in denial: “How do I simply randomly get up at some point swollen, and now I’m caught with this situation for the remainder of my life?”
For an athlete, it could possibly really feel such as you’re solely nearly as good as your final outcome, and Lee has talked about her struggles with imposter syndrome. Final yr she instructed ESPN that it’s been laborious to stay as much as the gold-medal normal, saying, “There’s simply been a lot doubt in like, ‘Oh, she shouldn’t have gained [the] Olympics, blah, blah, blah,’ and it actually hits my soul.” It’s a part of why competing in Paris subsequent summer season means a lot to her: It’s an opportunity to show that her success wasn’t a fluke. Lee needs to win gold in her signature occasion, the uneven bars, and within the staff occasion. Repeating as all-around champion? “That might be superb,” she says.