STORY: H. Jose Bosch
PHOTOGRAPHY: Marilyn Indahl

Different Starts, Same Finish

On a balmy Monday afternoon at Fanshawe Lake the humidity hung over everyone like an uncomfortable relative at a family reunion. In the sparsely filled grandstand, three women, Dawn and Denice Lingham and Susan Harrison (liver, 2001), sat and watched as their friend Margaret Benson (double lung, 2000) slowly rowed her way to the starting line to represent Canada.

As they waited for Benson to race, Dawn Lingham talked of how she felt about her father's first appearance in the World Transplant Games this year.

"It's cool," she says with a chuckle as tears well up in her eyes. "I'm proud."

Though all three ended in the same place, Susan Harrison, Richard Lingham, and Margaret Benson began their long and arduous journey differently.

A Healthy Body Gone Wrong
Harrison's healthy liver was damaged by an autoimmune condition in which her immune system all of a sudden began attacking it. The running enthusiast soon found herself slowly going from a run, to a jog, and finally to a walk, right up until the transplant. But she made a promise. Even as she lay sick in bed she promised herself that she would run again. This year, she will be participating in the mini-marathon for Canada.

"To have my children witness me doing this is just amazing," Harrison said.

Defying The Odds
Benson was born with systic fibrosis. The doctors gave her a year to live at the most. She's lived for more than 40. She then went into congestive heart failure right before her double lung transplant surgery and suffered a stroke afterwards, but came right back and continued to fulfill her life-long dream of being a school teacher. Two years ago she participated in her first World Transplant Games in Nancy, France, where she won three medals, including a gold in fast-walking (her best sport). This year is her first Games competing in rowing, and she took home two gold medals in the doubles and singles 1000m. She will also compete in the fast-walk and mini-marathon.

"It's not about medals," she said. "It's about being here and honoring our donors and our donors' families. [But it's] indescribable. You can't describe the difference of being so, so low and then being at the top of the world."

A Promise Made
Richard Lingham wasn't born with any deseases and during his youth and young adulthood his liver was a perfectly functional organ. All that changed when he got into a serious car accident in 1975. Because his liver was lacerated badly during the accident, doctors gave Lingham a blood transfusion which turned out to be bad. Lingham contracted hepatitis C which started to destroy his liver.

As he lay in what was thought would be his deathbed, Lingham made a single promise to his daughter. He promised that he would be at her wedding and walk her down the aisle.

"I think when anybody is sick you have to have a few focal points," said Lingam. "And that was certainly most important."

For most athletes the focal point is the finish line. For Lingham it was the church alter.

top of this page About TransWeb TransWeb's privacy policy Nothing on TransWeb is intended as medical advice! Please contact us for permission to reprint material on TransWeb. Copyright 2005 The Regents of the University of Michigan webcast sponsors TransWeb's front page

Last updated on: Friday, 05-Feb-2010 10:11:56 EST