Transplant Sport Northern Ireland team success at British Transplant Games in Coventry 2023
Transplant Sport Northern have just returned after 4 days of competition at the British Transplant Games which were held at the end of July in Coventry (27-30 July).
Often referred to as a ‘celebration of life’, the Games have been running for over 40 years, and transplant survivors including children as young as five can compete in more than 25 sports.
Many athletes go on to compete at the World Transplant Games. The Games are also an opportunity to show appreciation for, and remember, organ donors and their families.
Two athletes from County Down, Jim Fitzpatrick from Donaghadee and Dylan Caughey from Comber competed in the Transplant Games.
Teams from hospitals across the UK come together to compete in a medley of sports over the 4-day event. It attracts around 1,000 transplant athletes and more than 1,700 supporters.
This year, 19 transplanted patients from across Northern Ireland attended the Games as part of the Transplant Sport Northern Ireland (TSNI) team.
They were supported by a Belfast Health and Social Care Trust staff member who provided medical support to the team, and a massage therapist who himself is a kidney recipient.
This years’ team won 13 gold, 9 silver and 8 bronze medals over the 4 days.
The team ranging in age from 18 to 60+ consisted of 11 Kidney recipients, 4 Liver recipients, 1 heart transplant recipient, and 3 patients who have had their life transformed through bone marrow/stem cell transplants.
The team also had 1 Living Donor who competed after donating his kidney to his brother, who also attended.
The team took part in a wide range of sports including swimming, tennis, archery, table tennis, lawn bowls, ten-pin bowling, badminton, golf, cycling and track and field.
For the second year running, TSNI were able to field a football team who competed in the 6-a-side competition.
Speaking about the team going to the Games, TSNI Team Manager, athlete and kidney recipient Kathryn Glover commented:
“The Games is about participation; giving transplant recipients a chance to compete at sports because they can… because they have been given a second chance at life through the gift of organ donation.
“At the end of the 4-day event, many of our athletes returned home inspired to have a go at new sports or simply motivated to return next year stronger and fitter and ready for new challenges.”
Kathryn added: “This year, we had six newly transplanted patients who attended their first BTG.
“It was inspirational watching how those participants grew in confidence and gave their all in their sporting events, forming bonds with team-mates and fellow competitors who have been through similar life experiences.
“But ultimately contributing to the amazing team spirit that makes TSNI.
“The Games highlight the benefits of transplantation and increasing awareness of organ and tissue donation.
“They also aim to inspire patients to increase their physical activity to help keep fit and Dylan Caughey from Comber, Liver recipient. Took part in archery and footballultimately benefit their health and well-being.”
Dylan Caughey from Comber is a Liver recipient and he took part in archery and football.
And Jim Kilpatrick, a liver recipient from Donaghadee took part in archery, lawn bowls and ten pin bowling winning 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medal.
Jim was able to connect with his donor family at the Games.
He said: “For many transplant recipients, their transplant journey is often difficult to accept and manage. The British Transplant Games are the perfect vehicle in which to meet and become friends with fellow recipients.
“You learn too of their journeys too. Ultimately our Games family is a close knit group which encapsulate the message of living life to its fullest in honour of our donors.”
In June, the law around organ donation in Northern Ireland changed to an opt-out system, known as ‘Dáithí’s Law’.
This now means in the event that organ donation is a possibility after you die, it will be considered that all adults agree to being an organ donor unless they choose to opt out or are in an excluded group.
The best way to opt out is by registering a decision not to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
As organ and tissue donation and transplantation saves and transforms hundreds of lives each year, this new law will help more people save more lives by making it easier for those who support organ donation to say ‘yes’ to giving the ‘gift of life’.
The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland support organ donation, with just over 53% of people registering their decision to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Last year in Northern Ireland, 59 amazing families supported the gift of organ donation, which enabled 140 life-saving transplants across the UK.
Organ donation is a most precious gift, and the selfless act of donors and their families is at the heart of organ donation. Furthermore, there were 68 living donors in Northern Ireland last year.
96 lives in Northern Ireland were saved and transformed through deceased organ donation last year, and 59 through living donation.
However, there are around 140 people awaiting a transplant…waiting for the call to give them ‘the gift of life’.
You can opt-in, opt-out, or amend your decision at any time on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Once you have done this, it is extremely important to share your organ donation decision with those close to you.
Should the worst happen, families find the organ donation conversation much easier if they already know what their relative would have wanted.
Only a half of families agree to organ donation going ahead if they don’t know their loved ones’ decision, but this rises to 9 out of 10 if the family has had a conversation.