Competing with the gift of life

This week more than 1,500 transplant recipients from around the world are in Perth to compete in the World Transplant Games.

The event brings together living donors, transplant recipients and their families to compete in a variety of sports including athletics, swimming, cycling, tennis, and basketball. 

DonateLife WA spokesperson Tracy Thompson says events like this showcase the importance of the gift of life.  

“The World Transplant Games demonstrates to the general public that people who’ve had an organ or tissue transplant can still continue to lead their best life,” she says.

“Someone passing away is obviously incredibly sad but if they’re able to donate their organs and tissues, they can save the lives of up to seven people.”

In Australia, there are around 1,800 people on the waitlist for a transplant. According to the Australian Donation and Transplantation Activity Report, there are also 14,000 people on dialysis, many of whom may need a kidney transplant.

The research reveals, despite 4 in 5 Australians saying they support organ donation, only 1 in 3 have registered to be a donor.

World Transplant Games event organiser Gemma Dale says if you decide to be donor make sure you have a conversation with your family.

“Even if you register as an organ donor, your next of kin, can veto your decision so I think it’s really important to have that conversation with your family as well,” she says.

“Part of the reason Perth is hosting the Games is that Western Australia’s donation rates our organ donation rates are falling behind the rest of the country.”

“We’re really keen to use the games as an opportunity to promote that organ donation message and showcase what the gift of life can bring to people who’ve had an organ transplant.”

Ms Dale says as well as celebrating the second life of transplant recipients, the games recognise living donors and donor families.

“At the opening ceremony, all the emotion behind that gift of life was really evident. Living donors and family members of donors were the last people to be welcomed into the stadium. They came in to a standing ovation. There was plenty of tears and emotion behind it,” she says.

World Transplant Games competitor Silvana Baccin received her gift of life from her husband after suffering from polycystic kidney disease for five years.

“After the transplant, I started playing tennis and I haven’t stopped,” she says.

“I think this event is great. It’s also very emotional. When I saw the donor families and donors entering the stage. I cried a lot. I am excited to live and grateful for the miracle. The games are so great, it is magic.”

Video: Anneke de Boer.