My Experiences At The Transplant Games
The Transplant Games are open to all types of organ recipients. They are held every two years at locations around the country. The primary purpose of the games is to promote organ donation by showing the public how successful transplantation can be. In addition to the 12 athletic events for recipients, there are recognition events and programs for donor families and living donors.
There is also a 5k run that is open to everyone, and a golf outing for donors and recipients. There are about 50 different teams. Some states have more than one team and some states combine to form a team. I am on Team Liberty, the team that represents the Greater NY. Metropolitan area. I was pleased to be one of the LI TRIO members representing Long Island TRIO at the games.
Now I’ll tell you about my experiences at the Transplant Games. On Saturday July 12th I went to Carnegie-Mellon University to check out the racquetball courts and the track. I met a couple of racquetball players from Team Pittsburg that I had met at previous games. It was great to see them again. One of the best things about the games is meeting people from other teams and seeing the friends you met at previous games. After practicing for a while I headed back to my hotel so that I could get ready for the opening ceremony that evening.
The opening ceremonies are always special. Each team is announced and marches in to the convention center. Our team captain dressed as the Statue of Liberty. She had a crown, a torch, a flowing green gown, a green wig, and green face paint. Team Liberty’s 35 athletes followed her into the convention center carrying banners and torches that lit up.
We also have donor families and living donors that are part of our team. They marched in after all the athletes and they got the biggest ovation of all. The highlight of the opening ceremony was when a 24 year old woman, who had received a liver transplant in Pittsburg when she was 2 years old, received the opportunity to meet the family of the 18 month old girl who was her donor. They had both been searching for each other and the donor’s sister found the recipient on Facebook! Dr Starzl performed the surgery and he, the recipient, and the donor family were all reunited on the stage. The recipient had won a medal at the games and she gave it to her Donor Mom.
Sunday was racquetball day. When I arrived at the courts I found out that there were 4 players in my age group and that we would play a round robin. That meant that I would have to play 3 matches. Each match would be best 2 out of 3 games. My first match was relatively easy, my second match was harder, and my third match was very hard.
Even though I knew that I won all 3 matches, I was so tired from playing for 2 1/2 hours that it took awhile for the fact that I had won the gold medal to sink in. It was the first medal that I had won since I started going to the games in 2000. I am going to have it famed and give it to my brother Paul, whose generous gift of a kidney allows me to compete.
Monday was track and field day. I’m not a track and field person. I only started to compete so that I had something to do on the day between racquetball singles and doubles. I
also get to spend the day with other members of the team out on the track. My legs were so tired from Sunday’s racquetball that I didn’t expect to do very well. I was very surprised to get a Bronze Medal in the long jump and to finish 4th in the 100 and 200 meter races. I felt honored when Dr. Starzl presented my medal.
Since they didn’t have racquetball doubles this year, I went to watch Team Liberty compete in volleyball, basketball and bowling on Tuesday.
I also spent some time trading pins. Each team has their own pin and the goal is to get a pin from each of the other teams. It’s a great way to start a conversation and meet people from other teams. I’ve never received all of the pins because I usually end up giving some of my pins to little kids who really, really want to get them all. This year I think I got them all. That night we had the closing ceremony at the University of Pittsburgh. Awards for the best male and female athletes and several awards for outstanding efforts at promoting organ donation were given. As usual, the games were over much too soon.
On Wednesday it was time to go home. While I was waiting for the bus to the airport, I was talking to a woman whose husband had received a double lung transplant. She told me that while she was waiting for a shuttle bus to the closing ceremony, she was talking to a Donor Mom. They were telling each other their transplant stories and when they talked about the dates and locations it became apparent to her that she was speaking with the mother of her husband’s donor. Only at the Transplant Games could you meet your donor family while waiting for a shuttle bus!
So if you haven’t already been to the games, start planning now. It’s an event that you’ll never forget and that you have to experience at least once.