All 36 lanes were filled with recipients and
hundreds more cheered as strikes, spares, and gutter balls
alike drew enthusiastic applause.
Walking into the bowling alley, one couldn't help but
think that these were everyday Americans getting some exercise.
The fact that they were all recipients of organ transplants
could have easily been overlooked or unknown if not for
the colorful hats and T-shirts, organ donation buttons,
and banners celebrating the success of transplantation.
Kid pins (LISTEN
TO AUDIO )
We caught up with Joelle Atkinson and Riley Nelson as they
were receiving medals for their bowling performances in
the kids' division. Joelle, a 10 year old from the Philadelphia
area, was the recipient of a kidney transplant at 18 months
of age for polycystic disease. She received a combined kidney-liver
transplant 14 months ago and has never looked back. A Shirley
Temple lookalike, she engagingly and very authoritatively,
held forth on her transplant and the disease that led to
it. When asked how she feels now that her transplant is
behind her, she launched into spontaneous song!
Alongside Joelle was Riley Nelson, a six year old boy
from the outskirts of Salt Lake City. Born with hypoplastic
left heart syndrome, Riley had a heart transplant at six
weeks of age. He's looking forward to starting first grade
in the fall. Riley proudly wore his medal and looked every
bit the part of a champion.
Meanwhile, down at lanes 21 and 22, a mixed group of
bowlers were pursuing their games. On hand were Teri Palkow,
a 13 year old young lady from the Philadelphia area whose
kidney transplant, performed at two years of age, is still
working well. Natalie O'Dell, a Ft. Myers, Florida émigré,
now calls Charleston, South Carolina her home. She has received
two kidney transplants, one in Florida and the second in
South Carolina. Natalie now bowls recreationally after having
used a wheelchair for 2 1/2 years, and succeeded in her
goal to prove that she could knock down some pins!
Patti Powers, 46, works as a senior systems analyst for
the Saabre reservations unit of AMR in Tulsa, Oklahoma some
15 years after her successful liver transplant at the Mayo
Clinic. This is her third U.S. Transplant Games, and she
is clearly one of the better bowlers on hand. After a strike
and two spares in the eighth, ninth, and tenth frames, she
smiled and rolled a centerline strike for her extra ball.
Smiling, she sauntered back to the seats to savor an excellent
Six lungs, two donors, one grateful
TO AUDIO )
In 1990, Milton Hart, a Buffalo, New York resident,
was dying of lung disease. We caught up with him after he
finished his last game to hear about his story. After being
put on the waiting list, he received a double lung transplant
to replace his own diseased lungs in April, 1991. Sitting
up in bed a few days after surgery, the doctors gave him
the distressing news that the lungs had deteriorated while
in transit and this would result in the transplant's failing
within a few days. He was put into an intentional coma to
reduce his body's need for oxygen, and he was again put
on the waiting list for another pair of donor lungs.
Ten days later, near death, Milton was given yet another
chance when another pair of lungs became available. This
time, the choice was between a risky second double lung
transplant using donor organs that were thought to be in
poor condition and the alternative of certain death. The
doctors put Milton's chances at 3 in 100 and went ahead.
This coming April will mark the tenth anniversary of that
lifesaving second transplant. He has remained healthy and
active, participating actively in bowling and golf, embracing
life, and thankful for his second (and third) chance.