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Experience Joelle Elizabeth Atkinson's, Team Philadelphia, infectious enthusiasm with life. Joelle received a medal at the Bowling competition. by Doug Armstrong
Sharon Thomas, a heart-lung recipient from Team Arizona, describes an emotional reunion with other recipients and her donor family. by Doug Armstrong
  Milton "Mickey" Hart, Team Upstate New York, is approaching his 10 year transplant anniversary and shares the story of both of his double-lung transplants. by Doug Armstrong
by Bob Merion, MD
Available at Intramurals.com
Strikes and Spare Parts by Bob Merion, MD
Kid Pins
Formal Frames
Six lungs, two donors, one grateful recipient
Strikes and Spare Parts

by Bob Merion, MD

At the air conditioned AMC SkyBowl Lanes in Orlando, hundreds of transplant recipients took refuge from the 95 degree Florida heat to collectively celebrate their restored health and individually compete in one of the all-American pastimes.


All 36 lanes were filled with recipients and hundreds more cheered as strikes, spares, and gutter balls alike drew enthusiastic applause.

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.

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.

Formal frames
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 game.

Six lungs, two donors, one grateful recipient (LISTEN 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.


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