[PAGE 1] [PAGE 2] [PAGE 3] [PAGE 4]

STORY: David Stringer
PHOTOGRAPHY: Bob Garypie, Marilyn Indahl

Seasons of Love, Seasons of Life

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is home to the Minnesota Twins, the Vikings, and the University of Minnesota Gophers. On the evening of July 28, however, it was home to an equally remarkable set of athletes and the people whose wisdom, loving support, generosity and courage make the athletic successes possible. The gathering in the Metrodome included the friends and families of the athletes as well as the living donors, donor families, transplantation researchers and doctors, and representatives from the National Kidney Foundation and the major sponsors of the 2004 United States Transplant Games. They were all here to celebrate the games as "Seasons of Love, Seasons of Life.

The theme of games was presented as living in harmony with the natural cycles of the seasons, as many of our indigenous people once did. Master of Ceremonies Ken Howard said, "When we embrace the never ending cycle of life, death and rebirth, we are free to celebrate the joy of being alive in the moment." Co-host Jim Cunningham added, "The cycle of life depends on the seasons for rest, renewal and rebirth of purpose. It is in this way that life becomes whole. Together we complete the seasons in the circle of life." The four integral groups of the transplantation family - the transplant professionals, the friends and families, the donors, and the transplant recipients - together, Howard said, have led us to the dynamic success of the last fifty years of transplantation.

The atmosphere inside the huge pressurized dome was dynamic. Sounds were different, with the echoing voices on the public address system, the rise and fall of cheers from the 8,000 in attendance, the drums, voices and bells of the Ojibway singers and dancers, and the occasional rebel yell from Team Alabama. Down on the field, the artificial turf felt unnaturally spongy and plastic. Large screens gave the spectators close-up views of speakers from the stage. And overhead, the gray-white fabric dome enclosed everyone in this special place at this special moment.

The most important events of the Transplant Games are the Opening Ceremonies. As the athletes marched in, state by state or region by region, they were announcing to the world, "We are here!" And they were offering a "Thank you!" And by walking through the arches lined with colorful balloons beneath the words "DONATE LIFE," they were saying, "See, transplantation works. You can help make it happen." The parade of athletes included moose heads and cows, hard hats, straw hats and Native American headdresses, showgirls and playing cards, Liberty Bell hand puppets and pennants. But most of all it was a parade of smiles and waving hands.

The speeches were important, too, of course - Ken Howard and Jim Cunningham, President Bruiniks from the host University of Minnesota, Governor Tim Pawlenty, Fred Brown and Dr. Brian Pereira of the National Kidney Foundation, Dr. Joseph Murray, who performed the first kidney transplant in 1954, Sean Elliott, Larry Hagman, Brian O'Callaghan of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, the title and founding sponsor of the U.S. Transplant Games, and Father Patrick Sullivan - all important people who have made and are making transplantation what it is today. But in a sense the real story was in the brief gracious generosity of donor mom Jean Janohsky and the gratitude of Jimmy Lynch, recipient of Allen Janohosky's kidney and pancreas. As Lynch simply put it, "You are our heroes."

Magic does not happen on its own. Hundreds of yellow-shirted volunteers helped greet the guests at the ceremonies and direct participants to the right places for photographs, helped others find the elevators, and coordinate all these efforts. Among the volunteers were Ann Kalis and Susan Nelson, both nurses working with liver transplantation at Fairview University, the Medical Center on the University of Minnesota campus. Another was Laura Lanosa traveled to Minneapolis from San Diego to help out at the Games, and to check out the university and the community. She has a young family member who is a lung transplant candidate, and became interested in the healthcare industry while working at the UCSD Med Center Kidney Dialysis and Transplantation Unit.

Also making the event happen were dozens of sound technicians and engineers, videocam operators, people signing for the hearing impaired, and the behind-the-scenes people who made everything flow.

There was much to cheer about during the Opening Ceremonies, and the loudest and most sustained cheers came when the donor families entered carrying the donor quilts from the various states. The cycle of renewal requires medical research and skill, and loving support and care, and the courage and dedication that the athletes embody. But everyone present knew that without the generosity of donors and their families, the renewal of life would not happen and the cycle would not be complete. As the donor families walked in, cries of "thank you" were heard above the cheers.

About TransWeb webcast sponsors Copyright 2004 The Regents of the University of Michigan TransWeb's front page top of this page Please contact us for permission to reprint material on TransWeb. TransWeb's privacy policy Nothing on TransWeb is intended as medical advice!

Last updated on: Friday, 05-Feb-2010 10:05:42 EST