Kathie Gerlach won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Transplant Games in Argentina

Published on October 7, 2015

A special congratulations from all members and friends of Long Island TRIO:

Kathie Gerlach won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Transplant Games in Argentina!

Kathie Gerlach won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Transplant Games in Argentina.

Years ago, the New York Times ran a story featuring Kathie Gerlach where they described the Transplant Games as a three-day extravaganza of hopes and dreams, best efforts and personal pride by hundreds of hopefuls. Then they told some of Kathy’s story.

Kathy received the Gift Of Life; her first kidney transplant in 1975. hat wonderful gift lasted 30 years.

“It was a miracle,” says Miss Gerlach. “I could drink a glass of water. I could eat most foods and exercise. You want to run out and thank the donors for your new life. But, of course, you never know them. So you just say thank you to G’d and ask Him to pass it along.”

“Every year — in Greece and the Netherlands, in Texas and Singapore, in Hungary and Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Austria — Miss Gerlach swam the breaststroke and freestyle, sometimes relays, too. Every year, until 1991, she won at least one medal, stood on that tri-level podium and saw the United States flag hang there for her achievement.” excerpt from The New York Times article by Andrew H. Malcolm and published on July 3, 1992.

This year Kathy won the bronze metal in her event.

The following is an excerpt from one of the emails sent to me by Kathy and it was also published in our organization’s newsletter.

My name is Kathleen Gerlach and I am a 3 time kidney transplant recipient. My last transplant lasted 30 years from a deceased donor and I will be celebrating my 9 year anniversary with my 3rd transplant on Sept 8th. It was my honor and privilege to have attended the 2014 Transplant Games of America as a member of Team Liberty. However, none of this would have been possible without my “Gift of Life” from my altruistic living donor and friend, Julianna Kirk.

This Olympic style event is designed to celebrate the Gift of Life through transplantation as well as highlight the need for more donors.

I participated in swimming where I received a bronze medal in 100m breaststroke, and two silvers in 200m women’s relays. The Games allowed me to connect with old friends, meet new recipients and donor families, and enjoy a special Community of people who understand everything we go through and the life we all live.

They become your transplant family! I connected with my Quarter Century Club family (transplant recipients who have had their transplants for 25 years and over) at a special dinner at the Aquarium. When others see the longevity of our transplants, and see what we can accomplish, it gives hope and inspiration, whether they have recently received a new transplant or are on the waiting list. When the QCC walked into the stadium for opening ceremonies, I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of people wanting to shake my hand. It really came home to me again on how lucky I was to receive this gift of life.

I have been to 14 U.S. Transplant Games, and each time, I am overcome with the emotion of the magnitude of the miracle we have all received. As each team from every state in the U.S. walks in, the applause is thundering, filling my pounding heart with gratitude for my life. We are all walking miracles! Then, when the donor families walk in last, everyone stands and cheers, for without them and their gifts to us, there would be no us! As the Opening Ceremony came to a close, they lit the torch and had amazing fireworks light the sky. There are no words to express the emotion and excitement you feel.

At the closing ceremonies, so many thoughts run through my mind! Gratitude above all else, but a tinge of sadness at saying goodbye to new and old friends we’ve made during the week. I met such wonderful people, and listened to and shared many heartfelt stories. They will forever be a part of me. The events and activities will forever be cherished memories! I am always in awe and humbled by my experiences. Hopefully I will see them in two years at the next Games in Cleveland, Ohio.

GREENLAWN, L.I.— THIS is a story about world-class athletes who’ll begin competing soon in grueling Olympic events that you won’t see on television for $129.95. Not even for $1.95.

These days major athletic events must begin with an expose or at least some courtroom time. So here’s some dirt on this group of highly trained men and women who’ll swim, run, cycle and throw various objects for gold, silver and bronze medals: every single one of these little-known athletes tests positive for steroids!

Or at least they had better test positive. Otherwise their doctors will worry.

That’s because every single one of these athletes will be competing with conditioned bodies that contain at least one organ from another human’s body.

That’s right, the Transplant Olympics. It’s a three-day extravaganza of hopes and dreams, best efforts and personal pride by hundreds of hopefuls who attract less media attention than a 7-Eleven stickup.

Some of us non-Olympians complain about transient shoulder pain the day before a thunderstorm. Here comes Kathie Gerlach, a 37-year-old high school art teacher here who has competed since the Transplant Olympics began in 1980. An avid swimmer, Miss Gerlach contracted a rare kidney disease, probably swimming in polluted Long Island Sound. For nine years she underwent complex diet and medical therapies to prolong her failing kidneys.

Then she underwent a kidney transplant. She got very sick and very bloated. They operated again to remove the diseased transplant kidney. Then she underwent dialysis, which involved lying in a clinic twice a week for six hours watching while a machine drained all her blood, cleansed it and pumped it back in. For a day after each treatment she felt nauseated and exhausted.

Then, one day at noon she’s in class at C. W. Post and at 2, thanks to a helicopter, a police escort and the generosity of a Chicago family whose teen-age son was killed in a gang skirmish, Miss Gerlach is wheeled into a Bronx operating room to receive a second donated kidney.

That kidney goes into shock. Miss Gerlach spends three months hospitalized. Every gram of food, every drop of liquid entering her body is monitored, not to mention steroids, which suppress the body’s rejection of a “foreign” organ. Suddenly, the boy’s kidney in the girl’s body starts to cleanse her blood. After all those years Miss Gerlach could urinate just like everybody else. Big Celebration!

That was 1975. “It was a miracle,” says Miss Gerlach. “I could drink a glass of water. I could eat most foods and exercise. You want to run out and thank the donors for your new life. But, of course, you never know them. So you just say thank you to God and ask Him to pass it along.”

Every year — in Greece and the Netherlands, in Texas and Singapore, in Hungary and Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Austria — Miss Gerlach swam the breaststroke and freestyle, sometimes relays, too. Every year, until 1991, she won at least one medal, stood on that tri-level podium and saw the United States flag hang there for her achievement.

What happened last year? “I think it was my hip.” What about your hip? “The first week of July I got a new one.” A new hip? Three weeks before the Transplant Olympics in Europe? “Only three people have competed in every Transplant Olympics. I was determined to go and to finish my race.” How’d you do? “I finished second to last,” she says proudly.

Two weeks from today the National Kidney Foundation’s Transplant Olympics open in Los Angeles. Perhaps 1,000 transplant recipients will compete. “We’re very lucky,” says Miss Gerlach. “We got a second chance at life. We appreciate that and good health so much more. But we are normal viable people.”

Miss Gerlach doesn’t have any commercial endorsements, just an armload of brown plastic bottles filled with prescription drugs. She takes 250 milligrams of Aldomet twice a day, 50 milligrams of Imuran and 25 milligrams of prednisone every other day and 50 milligrams of hydrochlorothiaz each morning.

Here’s something to think about the next time you watch those star-spangled N.B.A.-millionaires thump another little country by six dozen points in a game that supposedly proves the innate superiority of a country that produces the soft drinks and shoes sponsoring these Olympic “contests”: The transplant Olympians train in neighbors’ yards and pools. They pay their own way (thank you, airfare wars). They share motel rooms. Opponents exchange tips on improving performance. And they rent video cameras to tape each other’s races as proof they made it.

“We have a great time,” says Miss Gerlach. “We do our best. We hope to win. And we’re just glad to be alive.”

Now, which group of world-class athletes do you think embodies the real Olympic spirit?

Source:The New York Times

 

 

This article was originally published here:
http://www.nytimes.com/1992/07/03/nyregion/our-towns-an-olympics-you-don-t-want-to-enter.html