The Transplant Games

Ellie from the We Are Runners team had an unexpected but complication-free liver transplant on 14th Jan 2017 (no pre-existing condition and no diagnosis, just got very poorly and very yellow, very quickly). 

I’d been in hospital for a week and a half when they told me I was at the top of the super urgent liver transplant donor list. It didn’t feel real at all. I was a very healthy (other than this), fit and (relatively) young person with a cracking family medical history.

Yes the whole thing was rather unpleasant and a bit of a shock but on hearing the news, the first thing my husband did to cheer me up was Google to see if this qualified me for the Paralympics paha! And Google (love Google!!) did it’s magic and let us down gently – no Paralympic qualifying (probably for the best, the standard is rather above my league come to think of it) but there’s something called the Transplant Games. It appeared that having a spot of major surgery and a lifetime of pills has an excellent silver lining (other than, you know, the life saving element).

I don’t want to belittle the experience me and all my family went through, being that sick was scary for everybody. I count myself incredibly lucky that the ordeal was over so quickly and the amazing doctors and nurses went above and beyond to get me back to full health pronto. Now that I am back and healthy again, I have every intention of making the most of it.

The Transplant Games

The Transplant Games really centre around raising awareness and getting more people on the donor register (God knows my donor will forever be my hero) as well as promoting a healthy, active lifestyle for people who have had a transplant. Having a transplant can also result in struggling with what’s happened mentally. For this I think sport and competition is crucial and I think the Games addresses this brilliantly.
For me, already, it’s also been a warm and friendly community of people who really ‘get it’ (not to sound like a hippie)…plus you get a cool T-shirt.

There are the British Transplant Games every year where you compete as part of your hospital team (Go Royal Free team, woop!). Then, on alternating years, the European and World Transplant Games which you need to qualify for. It’s more about taking part then a tough competition, having said that there are medals to be had so…!

Making the Team

That heading is misleading I just wanted to write it because it makes me feel fancy. To qualify for a team you ‘just’ need to have had a transplant and be on anti-rejection medication. I contacted my hospital team’s manager the same week I got out of hospital and his enthusiasm did a lot for my recovery. He kindly sent me the team T-shirt the same week and putting it on made me feel super human, I couldn’t stop smiling. The Games gave me a goal, a very exciting one too.

Training

Entering to compete in the Games just six and a half months post transplant is a tad punchy by all accounts (and actually I still need to get my doctors to agree). But we are all runners so we understand! I’ve entered the 400m, 800m, 1500m, 3k and 400m relay. Here’s my first training post – it’s going slowly but it’s going and I feel great!

Race Experience

I don’t want to mislead you all…I’m no novice…last year I raced a silver medal Paralympian in a 100m sprint. Yeah, big shot here. Oh fine, so did 3 dozen other people and we’d been drinking Ugandan beers beforehand.

I’ve never raced any of the distances I’ve entered (other than at my running club’s summer sports day…again, beer!) but I do love love love to run.

Probably shouldn’t have mentioned beer twice in a post about a liver transplant…I’m still learning.

Organ Donation

After I had the transplant I felt so sad for the family that had lost their loved one, my donor. My husband Paul said to me that if they hadn’t registered to donate their organs, then sadness would be all there was, no good at all. Instead here we are, so so happy, I’m so so alive. You can’t stop the terrible from happening but you can make sure there is the mother of all silver linings. If you haven’t signed up to the organ register yet, I implore you to think about it: www.organdonation.nhs.uk. Livers can still be transplanted well into their 60s, the hardy old things, so don’t dismiss registering, even if you are well old.