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Live on TransWeb...1998 US Transplant Games

All Finishers are Winners
Story by Robert Fox,photography by Joel Lerner and Robert Fox, audio byDoug Armstrong

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See Road Race Results at

The course was "out-and-back," flat, tree lined and fast. The conditions were warm (85 F), sunny and dry. The route wound through the residential area of the city of Grandview Heights. The participants were over 500 transplant runners along with 100 individuals from the Columbus area. The event was the 1998 U.S. Transplant Games 5k/3.1m Road Race.

The transplant runners approached the starting line with their own personal goals. Some were in quest of medals; and, some would be satisfied to complete the distance. All were happy to be able to participate in the race after years of physical struggle. As the runners stood at the starting line, University of Michigan Transplant Coordinator and TransWeb volunteer Maureen Fox was on the phone in the process of setting up a kidney transplant back at the U of M Medical Center with hopes that the recipient could be a part of the 2000 Games. Awareness that life continues after transplant in the form of the Games is also evident in the ongoing process of transplantation even though the Games are taking place. The race got off to a fast start with a slight downhill during the first half--mile. With members of the Grandview Heights High School cross country team leading throughout the race, the pack of runners made its way from and back into the downtown area of Grandview Heights. The cross country team placed four of its members in the top five overall finishers.

Gold medal winners for the female transplant runners included Christine Billiot, Louisiana (17 & Under); Jennifer Kinlund, Upper Midwest (18-25); Barbara Bittner, Western New York (26-35); Dedra Croll, Central New York (36-35); Cherry Rembolt, Southern California (46-55); and, Rita Soliniere. The Gold medal winners for the men included Willy Brennan, Philadelphia (17 & Under); Jason Ives, (Utah); David Ray, Philadephia (26-35); Enrique Alles, Georgia (36-45); Chris Chiarello, Northern California (46-55); and, Chuck Holdaway, Southern California (56 & Over).

A fast finish and a medal is not the aim of all the participants. Merely finishing is the goal for most. Riley Nelson, 5 years old, received his heart at 6 months of age. Riley indicated that he ran the "whole way." Saying that he has had a wonderful time, Riley also won a gold in Bowling and a silver in the 50 yard dash.

Maria Compagner, eighteen months old and pushed in a "stroller" by her father, had her liver transplant August, 1997. Maria and her father had a flat tire at the one mile mark and were assisted by a member of Team Indiana who helped lift/push the stroller the remainder of the race. Maria's father says that the Games is a great way to meet people and share experiences.

Since having a double lung transplant four weeks prior to the 1996 Games in Salt Lake City, Sami Stephenson has been through two rejection episodes and 150 transfusions. But now she's back to once again participate in the 5k Road Race. Accompanied by her sister, Diana Livingstone, Stephenson finished long after the lead runners; her goal, however, was exactly that -- to finish.
The limits to which all the participants pushed themselves was held in check only by their own personal goals. The race was and is for life. All in all, a great day for organ donation.


Listen to Christin Billiot from Team Louisiana who received a gold medal in the 5 Km Transplant Run. She received a kidney txp from her aunt, Goldie Rogers, in January 97. She completed the race in a wheelchair with some help from fellow teammates.

Listen to Sami Stephenson who walked the entire 5 Km course while pulling her oxygen bottle. Sami received a lung transplant in January 1997. She recently experienced a rejection episode and had to convince her physicians to allow her to travel to the 1998 Games.

See also: More photos

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Last modified: 11 May 2000