Tuesday, 11 August 2015
First Time at the British Transplant Games
I've just taken part in my very first British Transplant Games, which was held in the city of Newcastle this year. The games are supported by the charity Transplant Sport and Westfield Health and help to raise awareness of the need for more people to join the organ donor register as well as helping to demonstrate the huge benefits of transplantation.
I've never been a sporty type - I always wonder now might that be due to having a lung disease I didn't know about - it's something I'll never know. I was encouraged to give it a go by my friend Maggie, who is the games team manager for my hospital, Papworth and I'd also seen some of my other friends taking part in last year's games, so was keen to give it a try.
I was a little dubious, as not being that keen or good at sport in my pre transplant days and never having done anything competitive since my primary school years, I didn't want to show myself up or let the Papworth team down. I was assured it wouldn't be like that though and that it was all about taking part, having a go and being inspired.
It's a four day event and when we arrived for registration at Gateshead Stadium, the archery was already underway. There are many events to take part in from social events to swimming, field and track events and cycling and walks.
My first event was taking part in the opening ceremony. This was a very proud moment when around 900 transplant patients gathered together in our hospital groups and took part in a parade through the busy centre of Newcastle to the City Halł.
In the City Hall each team was given a massive round of applause and there were representatives from the charity Donor Family Network, who represent our donor families. When they walked through the applause was deafening and we gave them a standing ovation - of course none of us would even be in these games if it were not for these brave families and their loved ones.
We watched the ceremony, where the Transplant Games flag was passed on from representatives of last year's host city Bolton to representatives from Newcastle. Then the flame was lit to mark the start of the games. I was delighted to see one of my friends Chris, from Newcastle's home team, the Freeman Hospital, help light the flame. The ceremony ended with a small concert by Joe McElderry, which I hadn't expected. Afterwards I got the chance to meet Chris and his mum Yvonne for the first time, along with other friends.
Friday we didn't have any events, so we watched a few activities at various places then went along to the social evening in the evening and watched a bit of the darts. Then on Saturday I'd entered the 3K walk event and managed to complete this. It was a lovely walk along the quay side. I do a lot of walking, but doing it as part of a race is very different when having to keep up a good pace all the time.
A few hours later both Rob and I took part in the 'Donor Run and Walk.' All the transplant patients took part in this and their supporters so there were nearly three thousand of us down on the quay. It was a gorgeous evening and everyone was in great spirits as we all undertook the walk or run in honour of our donors.
After completing the event we got medals and I managed to meet up with Chris again and another friend called Natasha. Both Chris and Natasha have transplanted heart and lungs like me and both had got in touch with me just after my transplant and have given me lots of encouragement. There aren't so many of us with transplanted heart and lungs, so it was fantastic to get to meet them both at last.
Sunday was another busy day, we spent the afternoon at Gateshead Staduim and enjoyed watching some of the athletics and field activities. I was having a good look and trying to get a feel for what I might enjoy taking part in next year. I think I'm definitely going to do the donor walk and 3K walk again and I'm thinking about things like javelin, archery, ten pin bowling and table tennis perhaps. We shall see...
Sunday evening and the games finished with a gala dinner and closing ceremony. Again, I hadn't really known what to expect, but we had a fabulous evening. We were seated all together as a team and had a buffet meal followed by the awards ceremony. This was held in an iconic building called the Sage Centre, which overlooked the Tyne and the Millenium Bridge.
At the awards ceremony, I was thrilled my friend Chris was awarded a special gold medal and then my friend Maggie won the cup for best super veteran female. If that wasn't enough, we were then surprised to find out that our team had won the best heart and lung team cup. That was the icing on the cake!
We had some fun as Jeremy Kyle entertained us with our own Jeremy Kyle Transplant Show, which was hilarious and then there was a big disco party to follow. It was a fantastic experience and we had a great time.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed myself - it was a very new, emotional and different experience to be part of - one I know I wouldn't have ever done if it weren't for my donor and their family. I've come home inspired to keep on getting myself fitter and try out some new activities too. I've already started trying harder with the walking - not walking further, but trying to walk faster. Maggie told me I'd get hooked if I came along...so Liverpool 2016 here I come!