Support through Sport UK had the pleasure of finding out more about Transplant Sport. We spoke to both Jo Brown, from Transplant Sport, and Chris Ingram, a kidney transplantee and participant at the British Transplant Games ...
Hello Jo. Can you start by telling us what the main aims of Transplant Sport are?
Absolutely. Our published aims are as follows:
To advance the study of the biological and clinical problems of organ transplantation, to facilitate co-operation between persons concerned with organ transplantation and to make new knowledge available for the general benefit of the community.
To preserve and protect the physical and mental health, and the rehabilitation, of persons who have undergone transplant surgery by the provision of facilities for recreation and other leisure time occupation for such persons.
The advance of the education of the public relating to organ transplantation.
What this means, in reality, is that we aim to raise awareness of the need for organ donation. We also want to show appreciation for, and remember, donors and their families. In a nutshell, more donors means more lives saved.
How do you achieve these aims?
Transplant Sport organises sporting and social events for both transplant recipients and the wider transplant family (which can include donor families and live donors).
All sports, from the less energetic sports of darts and bowls, through to high-energy sports such as track and field, allow participants of every ability to join in with others in the spirit of friendship.
The events give transplant recipients the opportunity to take part in activities, whilst also providing them with an invaluable opportunity to meet others and benefit from mutual support.
We promote our events as much as possible, both to celebrate the success of transplantation and to encourage others to sign up to the Organ Donor Register.
Can you tell us a bit more about some of your events, such as the British Transplant Games?
We organise the annual Transplant Games, where our members come together for four days of events - both sporting and social. For those who achieve a good enough standard, there is the opportunity to compete as part of the British Team at the World Transplant Games. The most important aspect of the Games, though, is the camaraderie and friendship that develops between the participants through a shared experience of transplantation.
Each year the Games are held in a different city, as a way of spreading the message. In 2015, we are holding the Games in Newcastle and Gateshead. in 2016, we come to Liverpool.
Who can become a member of Transplant Sport?
Anyone can be a member. It's not only for people who have received a transplant. Often we have the whole family signing onto our database, which means that we can keep them informed of our latest events.
And how do they sign up?
Through our website. Or you can email the office - firstname.lastname@example.org We can then send you a membership form. You will then be added to the database and we keep in touch with our members through our quarterly e-newsletters.
And how else can people get involved?
One of our goals is to promote the Organ Donor Register, so please do sign up and tell your family what your wishes are.
In addition, all of our events can be supported by members of the public - and we need volunteers at many of them.
Thanks for chatting to us, Jo.
After chatting to Jo, Support through Sport UK spoke to Chris Ingram. In 2005, Chris received a kidney transplant. Since then, he's continued to pursue an active, sporty lifestyle and has had great success at the British Transplant Games ...
Hi Chris. Can you tell us a bit about your transplant?
I was born with posterior urethral valves, which caused chronic renal failure. I was due to receive a transplant from my mother when I was six but, on admission into hospital, the doctors found that my renal function had risen from 15% to 18%, and so it was cancelled. They said that that had never happened to anyone before. Eighteen months later, when I was eight, I had the transplant. My mother's kidney 'woke up' immediately and started working straight away, which was obviously a huge relief and fantastic news. I had to stay in the hospital for close to two weeks. I was then allowed to return to Ronald McDonald House, which is a place close to Guy's Hospital where families can stay (I live near Southampton so London was quite a trek). There are other such houses across the country.
How successful has the transplant been?
The transplant has been extremely successful. I recently celebrated ten years post transplant, which I didn't feel I would make as the kidney has been rejecting since February 2014. This was unfortunate timing for me as I was in my final year of A-levels. Over the past five months, G4 Nephro-Urology at Southampton General Hospital have really tried to save the kidney - but they had to give up in July as the treatment was too toxic for the rest of my body. How I managed to pass those A-levels is a mystery to me! Since then, I've just been waiting for the kidney to need dialysis. The kidney got down to 6% function before this proved necessary. A chesty cold, followed by pneumonia, meant that I ended up on life support for three days when the little kidney function I had left finally failed. So I had to begin dialysis, which, remarkably, I'd managed to avoid my entire live. According to my consultant, this is extremely rare. Dialysis is a process which removes toxins from the body, as the kidneys can no longer do this. Haemodialysis is a method that is used to remove waste products such as creatinine, urea and free water from the blood when the kidneys are in a state of renal failure. It's done for four hours, three days a week.
Did you use sport to help you prepare for your transplant operation?
Before my transplant, I was a normal, active young boy. I loved my football and I also enjoyed playing tennis. In fact, I played on the LTA circuit for a few years, representing Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. I was also was a part of a local football team, and I represented my school in both sports. My best tennis results would have to be reaching two semi-finals in two different tournaments, and also one final, which I managed to win. In terms of football, during one of the seasons I played for my school team, we managed to achieve promotion to the next division. All this sport undoubtedly helped to keep me fit in the lead up to the transplant.
And did sport help you to convalesce after the operation?
Without doubt, it helped tremendously. All of the immuno-suppressants and steroids I was on post-transplant meant that I put on a lot of weight. To counter this, and to get back into the sport that I loved, I re-started my tennis and football. I went to twice-weekly tennis coaching sessions and it wasn't long before I competed in another tournament - around six months post transplant at best guess. In what I believe was my second tournament since returning to the court, I reached the final and won. In terms of my football, I returned to the local team I played for pre-transplant, I played during my breaks at school and I got back my place on the school's A-team.
The British Transplant Games are held annually at different cities across the UK. Have you competed at the Games and, if so, in which sports and how did you do?
I love the Games and have so far competed at two. My first was in 2013, when they were held in Sheffield. Those were my most successful Games. I achieved gold in tennis, bronze in football and I was awarded a 'competing medal' for my efforts in the Tug of War! My second Games came last year in Bolton. I competed in the tennis and the five-a-side football. Unfortunately I got cramp quite soon into my first soccer game and so had to come off. I did manage to hit the post though during my short time on the pitch!
And, finally, can you tell us a little bit about Transplant Sport and the support they've given you over the years?
I think Transplant Sport are amazing and the hard work that they put in all year round to host all kinds of events is fantastic, with the Games, at least for me, being the stand-out event of the year. For me, the best aspect of the Games is the opportunity to meet new people and then see them again the following year. I also love the competitive aspect of the tournament which, whilst very friendly, has led me to play some of the best tennis I've ever played. Playing against the best that Great British Transplant Sport Tennis has to offer has improved my game no end and made me a better player than I was two years ago. Further, I'm hoping to attend the Racquets Tournament this coming May, which should develop my game even more - providing I'm well enough to compete of course. Transplant Sport also holds events such as the Young Adults' Weekend, which is being held in the Cotswolds this year and is run by Joe Dunster. Joe, who's brilliant, does so much for young adults across the whole of the country ... not bad for a Portsmouth fan!
In addition to the new, and hopefully lifelong, friendships that Transplant Sport's events have helped me to foster, seeing the hundreds of other competitors really hammers home to me the realisation that there are others out there who are going through what I'm going through. They understand certain issues or concerns that I have that maybe my family, medical team and my non-medically affected friends simply can't understand. The social side of the Games is a lifesaver in my opinion. The Games provide me with a really fun few days - as well as building up my self-confidence as I seem to get on really well with everyone I meet at the Games. It's a fantastic event and I look forward to it every year now!
Thanks, Chris, for a brilliant interview and best of luck for the 2015 Games; hope you have a fab time!