FRIDAY JULY 22: ATHLETICS     RESULTS
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STORY: David Stringer
PHOTOGRAPHY: David Stringer


More Second Chances

Officials at Waterhouse Stadium were careful to protect the safety of athletes from wandering journalists who might get in the way, so I instead spoke with several people who were away from the track awaiting their events. They all shared an appreciation of the importance of the World Transplant Games, but some raised questions about how to sustain the benefits of raised local awareness.

Dave Smith, President of the Canadian Transplant Association, was at the track competing in four running events. Earlier in the week he had won two medals in rowing, a gold in the doubles and a silver in the singles. He is a living example of the story these games send to the world: that transplant recipients can and do lead active and vibrant lives. He received a kidney from his brother in 1997, and since then he has climbed, with a heart transplant recipient, the highest mountain in Bolivia, Mt. Sajama, which towers at 6,500 meters.

In his position as President he oversees the Canadian National Board, which plans the national games and does other things to raise awareness of transplantation and increase organ donation. He found these World Games in London to be well-organized, with the accommodations satisfactory and the events running smoothly.

Melissa Salvador, who won Female Athlete of the Year at the 2004 U.S. Transplant Games in Minneapolis, mirrors Smith's success. In London attending her first World Games, she says, "It's inspiring to see people from all around the world who have received this tremendous gift and are doing so well." She continued, "It's so easy to start conversations. We all appreciate having our second or third chance." She is competing in four running events, and Thursday she won a gold medal in tennis with her partner, Sandy Webster. Salvador received a kidney thirteen years ago.

Helping build local awareness of transplantation is one major goal of the games that Michael Binder sees. He is aware of how the World Games have attracted attention in London in the media and in the shops and restaurants in town, and he is glad to see this awareness move from nation to nation. Binder, who received a heart 13 years ago, is competing in golf and the 100-meter dash.

Donald Ehnot, competing for the United States with a heart he received 15 years ago, described a process of rebirth that his transplant gave him. It was more than getting a second chance at life. "I had a bad heart all my life," he said, "and after my transplant I had to adjust. It took months for me to begin to realize that I could push my body, and now I am competing and sometimes winning." He also pointed out the simple pleasures of being able to eat and sleep normally. He is glad that the Games showcase how transplant recipients can lead meaningful lives.

The success of his rebirth is evident in the fact that he is competing in the 100- and 200- meter dash, the 5K race walk, and the shot put. He also won a silver medal in sculls. He described how he and his inexperienced team mates were going to row singles, which would have been dangerous in the tippy scull. They were instead placed in a quad with an experienced cox from a local rowing club. This 4th place finisher in the Olympics taught them on the fly. Ehnot told how they all came back with bruised and bloody hands and forearms because the hands actually cross while rowing and you are supposed to bring one over the other with some clearance, but in the heat of the competition one hand would scrape the other.

Like Michael Binder, Ehnot sees the value of the Games in promoting awareness in local communities, where the number of organ donors jumps around the time of the Games. Unfortunately, though, this benefit usually only lasts a short period of time. The challenge is in finding ways to sustain high levels of donation so more people can get the second chance these athletes were given.

Donald Ehnot, competing for the United States with a heart he received 15 years ago, described a process of rebirth that his transplant gave him. It was more than getting a second chance at life. "I had a bad heart all my life," he said, "and after my transplant I had to adjust. It took months for me to begin to realize that I could push my body, and now I am competing and sometimes winning." He also pointed out the simple pleasures of being able to eat and sleep normally. He is glad that the Games showcase how transplant recipients can lead meaningful lives.

The success of his rebirth is evident in the fact that he is competing in the 100- and 200- meter dash, the 5K race walk, and the shot put. He also won a silver medal in sculls. He described how he and his inexperienced team mates were going to row singles, which would have been dangerous in the tippy scull. They were instead placed in a quad with an experienced cox from a local rowing club. This 4th place finisher in the Olympics taught them on the fly. Ehnot told how they all came back with bruised and bloody hands and forearms because the hands actually cross while rowing and you are supposed to bring one over the other with some clearance, but in the heat of the competition one hand would scrape the other.

Like Michael Binder, Ehnot sees the value of the Games in promoting awareness in local communities, where the number of organ donors jumps around the time of the Games. Unfortunately, though, this benefit usually only lasts a short period of time. The challenge is in finding ways to sustain high levels of donation so more people can get the second chance these athletes were given.

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