A team of inspiring British athletes, who have overcome ill health and successful organ transplants, are heading to Canada to compete in the eleventh World Transplant Winter Games at the end of this month.
Among them is 53 year-old Mark Brown from Ruddington (pictured top right with his Curling team-mates) who will be competing in both the Curling and downhill events as part of Team GB. The 25 strong team will compete in a variety of sports, which include slalom, parallel slalom, giant, super giant, cross country, biathalon, snowboarding, snow shoe events and curling. Five members of the team are living donors and their families, meaning they have experienced giving the gift of life to others, and will be taking part in some donor events. There are also 3 children taking part in the Nicholas Green Cup event, which takes place during the week.
The event, which will take place at both Banff, Norquay and Lake Louise in Canada from February 23rd to 29th 2020 is being held outside of Europe for only the second time in the history of the World Transplant Winter Games. In total over one hundred competitors from 16 countries across the globe will be competing in a range of winter sports, with Team GB having the largest number of participants. All have had a life-saving heart, kidney, pancreas, bone marrow or liver transplant.
The World Transplant Winter Games provides the opportunity for transplanted athletes to enjoy a new lease of life and to demonstrate the benefits of organ donation. Team GB excelled at the 2019 World Transplant Games in Newcastle and Gateshead. They have a strong curling team, who hope to retain its gold medal.
Team GB is managed by the charity Transplant Sport – which is also the founder of the British Transplant Games, held annually in a town or city across the UK.
Villager Mark, whose day job is as a kitchen designer at Howden’s Joinery, has had to fund the trip himself. He organised a sponsored 76-mile bike ride from Nottingham City Hospital (where he receives after care for his transplant) to St James Hospital in Leeds (where he had his transplant in April 1994). Mark says he would also like to thank the West Riding Kidney Patient’s Association and Howden’s for their generous donations.
Mark spent 20 months on dialysis before having a successful kidney transplant. Now, 25 years later, he’s heading to Canada to hopefully pick up his fifth Gold medal in Curling. Mark tells us: “It’s been great to compete at the games representing my country – this is the 8th Winter World Transplant Games I’ve attended. I’ve previously won medals in the Giant Slalom, Snowboarding, and surprisingly I now have 4 gold medals in curling. I’ve only ever curled at the Games apart from taking part in a competition in Scotland in 2018 with some of my team members which makes it even more amazing.”
He adds: “Whilst it’s great to win medals the publicity for this international event will hopefully encourage others to sign onto the Organ donor Register, but most importantly discuss their final wishes now with their families.”
Lynne Holt, Manager of Team Great Britain, says: “Many of our transplant athletes have experienced near death situations and long illnesses. For me, it is very gratifying to see them able to enjoy an active life once again thanks to organ donation. Without this gift of life many of them would not be here to compete in this special event. Every member of the team has already climbed a mountain to get through their transplant and with an immense amount of courage and determination will now get to enjoy the thrills of being up in the Rocky Mountains in Canada.”
Lynne adds: “I hope this inspiring, international event will encourage others to sign up to the Organ Donor Register but, most importantly, encourage people to discuss their wishes with their families.”
Meantime, more than 6,000 people in the UK are currently waiting for an organ transplant, with three people dying every day. Transplant patients owe their lives to the generosity of others, who donate the ‘Gift of Life’’ by signing up on the Organ Donor register.
To register yourself, or to find out more information, please go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk. You can also contact the NHS Organ Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23.