Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin discusses raising awareness for kidney health after father's transplant

As a two-time Olympian and six-time medalist, American swimmer Missy Franklin has built a large community over the years. That community has stood faithfully by her side throughout her storied career. 

Perhaps it’s even more meaningful that the same community that cheered her on along the path to victory also played a crucial role in helping Franklin during a time of crisis. 

“My dad [Dick Franklin] was diagnosed with ADPKD (autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease). It runs on my father’s side of the family. It is a hereditary disease, meaning it is passed down,” Franklin told Fox News Digital in a recent interview. 


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Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year nominee and swimmer Missy Franklin and parents Dick Franklin and D.A Frankiln attend the 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards at the Istana Budaya Theatre March 26, 2014, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.   (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Laureus)

“Out of the four siblings that my dad is a part of, three of them have ADPKD. And his father had it as well. It is the most common form of PKD, which is a genetic condition that causes cysts to form on the kidneys, and it leads to a decline in kidney function, which will eventually require the need for dialysis or a transplant.” 

Franklin, who retired from swimming in 2018, explained that her father’s condition was known for some time, but in 2022, the family learned the difficult news that the disease was “rapidly progressing.” 

“To realize that it was progressing to the point where it was severely impacting his quality of life, and we knew that we needed to do something moving forward, that pushed us to reach out to our close community about finding a living organ donor.” 

In May of that year, Franklin and her family received a life-changing phone call. Her father had a donor match, and several months later, in August 2022, the transplant was performed. 


Through our entire story and journey, we have just really realized the importance of having family health history conversations with genetic diseases that run in the family. And our story has a happy ending, and I am so grateful for that. And I don’t take advantage of that for one day.” 

But it was that community that Franklin was already so proud to be a part of that answered her family’s call. 

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Crissy Ahmann-Leighton of the U.S. swims in the qualifying heats of the women’s 100-meter butterfly race during the 1992 Summer Olympics July 12, 1992, at the Bernat Picornell Pools in Montjuic, Spain. Ahmann-Leighton was the eventual silver medalist.  (David Madison/Getty Images)

It was two-time Olympic gold medalist Crissy Perham who answered the call to be a living donor, and the two were miraculously a match. 

“The fact that we got to match at all, the fact that my dad got a living donor at all, is such a miracle and such a gift. … And then the fact that she was an Olympic gold medalist in swimming, it’s just like – it’s so unreal,” Franklin said.

Franklin says she still remains in contact with Perham regularly and considers her a part of her family. 

“There’s not a minute that I spend with my dad that I don’t think of Crissy because I literally would not have had that time and those moments with him if it were not for her and what she did for us.” 


Franklin is using her platform and teaming up with Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc. to drive the conversation about kidney health and the importance of early detection and genetic testing. 

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Laureus Academy ember Missy Franklin poses at the Mercedes-Benz Building prior to the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards Feb. 16, 2020, in Berlin, Germany.  (Simon Hofmann/Getty Images for Laureus)

“I think one thing that Otsuka and I are really trying to do is, first of all, validate that these conversations are very hard to have,” Franklin said. 

“It’s really hard to talk about diseases that do impact the family, that are genetic, that are passed down. But we know the importance of early detection. We know the importance of working with your health care team professionals to put together a plan in place that’s going to give you the best outcome it possibly can. And that’s why these conversations are so, so important.” 

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