A group of inspirational transplant athletes have returned home this week after competing in the Westfield Health British Transplant Games in Liverpool representing Anthony Nolan.
This was the second year Anthony Nolan had a team competing at the event, and they returned with their best-ever medal haul – an incredible 17 medals.
Simon Perkin: Golf (Gold), 5km Running (Gold), 1500m Running (Gold), 100m (Gold), Swimming (Silver)
Nicky Maskens: Tennis (Gold)
William Laughton: 5km Cycling Time Trial (Gold), 10km Road Race (Gold)
William Black: 5km Cycling Time Trial (Silver), 10km Road Race (Silver)
Cameron McGregor-Ogden: Badminton (Bronze)
Rizwana Rashid; 1500m (Silver), 800m (Silver)
Nadia Stock; 1500m (Bronze), 800m (Bronze), Javelin (Bronze), Women's 3km (Silver)
It was Alex Hannard’s first time at the Games. He was so pleased to be taking part in sports as his condition before his transplant, chronic granulomatous disorder, meant he couldn’t as a young child due to a high risk of infection. Because of his unwavering enthusiasm and spirit, he was awarded MVP at the Team meal on Saturday evening and a medal with a unanimous vote from staff, volunteers and patients.
Chiara DeBiase, Head of Patient Experience at Anthony Nolan, said, ‘This was our second year taking Team Anthony Nolan to the Westfield Health British Transplant Games and it couldn’t have gone better.
‘We had a fantastic time in Liverpool and I can’t thank our amazing team enough. The organisers of the games and all the other competitors were also fantastic and gave us such a warm welcome.
‘Of course, it was fantastic to win so many medals but the real success story from the games was to see everyone celebrating life post-transplant. All the athletes are proof that you can live a happy and healthy life after a transplant.
‘We were very proud to partner with the British Transplant Games 2016. It is such a rewarding experience for all involved. We are already looking forward to the next year’s games in North Lanarkshire, Scotland which I’m sure will be even bigger and better.’
Nadia Stock, 35, who lives in Newcastle, had a stem cell transplant 13 years ago, and is now living life to the full. She was one of the athletes representing Anthony Nolan.
Nadia said: ‘I am delighted with my performance in the athletics and to bring home a silver and three bronze medals, all thanks to my donor and my family.'
‘The atmosphere at the Games was incredible. It was so heartwarming to be in a crowd of people affected by transplants. I spoke to lots of people who’d been through tough times and it was nice to speak to people who understood what I’d been through. Everyone was really supportive – even the winners stopped to clap their fellow competitors over the line.’
Nadia took home a silver medal in the mini-marathon, a bronze for javelin and two bronzes for 800m and 1500m running events.
Her Anthony Nolan teammates did equally well with a total of seven golds, six silvers and four bronzes for the eight-person team.
Nadia was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia - a rare, potentially life-threatening blood condition - in 2002, while studying medicine at Newcastle University. Nadia’s best chance of a cure was to have a stem cell transplant.
Nadia explains: ‘My brother and sister were tested to see if their tissue type matched mine as there is a 25% to 30% chance of having the same tissue type as a sibling. But sadly they weren’t a match.’
Nadia’s doctors got in touch with Anthony Nolan, who searched the worldwide registries for a match.
Nadia says: ‘In the meantime, I had to have blood and platelet transfusions several times a week to keep me going. It was exhausting. Then, about 14 months after I was first diagnosed, I got the call that a match had been found.’
After Nadia received the transplant, she was kept in isolation for six weeks to make sure the transplant had taken. But it wasn’t long before doctors confirmed the transplant was a success.
Gradually, Nadia returned to full health. Now, Nadia is living a normal life and has just brought her first baby, a girl called Hannah, into the world.
She says: ‘Last year when I competed at the Games, I was nine weeks pregnant and I took home two bronze and two silver medals. Now, I’m five months post-baby so I wasn’t expecting the same result! But I’m delighted with the medals I did get.’
The Westfield Health British Transplant Games saw over 2000 participants take part in a variety of sporting events across the four-day celebration of life. The annual uplifting sporting event was an opportunity for sporting competition, encouraging participants to live a healthy life following their transplants. The Games celebrated the gift of life, with donor families invited as guests of honour to present medals and represent the many people who gave the gift of life through so many organ transplant patients.
The Westfield Health British Transplant Games raised awareness of organ donation, adding tens of thousands of new signatures to the organ donor register. Participants encouraged those signing the register to have the #donationconversation and let their loved ones know their wishes.
Lynne Holt, from the charity Transplant Sport (TSUK) which organises the Games said, "The annual British Transplant Games showcase the benefits of transplantation, which would not have been possible without donor families decision to choose organ donation during a very difficult and tragic time.
It is very gratifying to see the participants able to enjoy a full life, thanks to organ donation. Whether they won medals or not, all our athletes are gold medallists, in that they have all won their race for life!”
Lynne Holt added; “Over 42 per cent of families refuse consent for organ donation, with their uncertainty of their loved one’s wishes cited as the main reason. The Games aim to get people talking about organ donation in addition to signing the register in the hope that the level of family consent will rise.”