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Posts Tagged ‘Transplant Games’

It’s funny — I knew when I was there that the Transplant Games were something special. I knew it when I got home back in July. I would have told you earlier today, if you’d asked, that “Yep, they were definitely something special.” But tonight, when I watched the full-length official video on YouTube, bawling through half of it and smiling ear to ear through the rest, I was reminded that they weren’t just special. They were monumental to me and my own healing post donation, and they were monumental to my my family’s healing.

Living donors, donor families, and transplant recipients, I can’t recommend this event enough. Your next chance is in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2010. It’s so far away, but will be here in the blink of an eye.

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Let’s hear it for my hometown!  Two great items to share with our living donor community and its extended members of transplant recipients, families and friends, and health care professionals.  Both nuggest come from my original stomping grounds here on the planet: Des Moines, Iowa.

First, today in the Des Moines Register there’s a terrific article by columnist Marc Hansen about Team Iowa at the U.S. 2008 Transplant Games, focusing particularly on Jim Steinberg, who received a kidney in 2004 from his former college roommate.  It reports on some of the touching moments JIm witnessed at the games, including seeing the parents of a lovely deceased donor teenager meet with the recipient of their child’s heart, and ask to hear the heart beating in the recipient’s chest.

I was so proud of Team Iowa at the games.  Their group was huge. They wore smart green track suits and they graced the games with that signature Iowa openness and kindness I love so much.  They wore extremely goofy tall corn hats.  I almost wanted to suit up in green and join them, a proud homecoming of sorts. But I stayed true to my Team Northwest colors in honor of Joe, who lives in Portland now.

Second, I have been watching eagerly (and with a small competitive fire under my tush) the activities of the My Angel Foundation, a relatively new nonprofit (like mine) sparked by a transplant between two family members (like Joe and me) from Iowa (like Joe and me, woo hoo!) that has made some amazing strides in getting established and actively making a difference.  (Okay, comparison ends there — we’re still getting things ramped up at Greatest Gift.)   If you enjoy inspiration, and you care about transplantation issues, you should most definitely check out what they’re up to, which is predominately focused on spreading the word on organ and tissue donation. 

Especially note the fondation’s blog called Revive Hope, written by founder Ted Cochran and two of his knowledgeable friends.  How can you not love this mission statement:

Revive Hope’s focus is to revive hope by creating inspiration. This blog will have postings of inspiring stories about individuals directly affected by organ and tissue donation, provide information about organ and tissue donation, and inspire those who view the site to give hope through compassion!
Got an in spiring story to share? Here’s a great place to do it!

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Wow.  Honestly, it’s about all I can think of to say about the amazing experience I just took part in this week. Wow.  For all of you who were there, all 6,000 of you — the 1,500 athletes, the 159 living organ donors, the thousands of you who came in honor and remembrance of your loved ones who gave the gift of life, the families and friends who came to cheer on their atheletes — I just want to say thanks for making these Transplant Games the event that they are.  I will never forget this week!

Many of you might be seeing this blog and hearing about the Greatest Gift Foundation for the first time.  I encourage you to check out the “About,” “My Story,” and “Greatest Gift Foundation” tabs up above, and to contact me any time through comments or through email if you’d like to get in touch.  I’d love to hear from you no matter what it is you have to sound off about!

(Note on comments:  to block spam, I manually approve any comments submitted by first-time commenters, so if you make a comment it might take a day or so for it to appear.  Don’t let that stop you!)

Thankfully, after all that excitement, I don’t have to hustle back to work.  Instead, some friends and I are hiking a 14,000-foot peak in the Colorado Rockies this weekend.  A blissful way to end a blissful week.  I’ll post from Denver tomorrow and Friday.

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Watching the athletes today, there were several times where it was easy to forget that every single one of them has received a life-saving organ transplant:  A heart, lungs, kidney, liver, bone marrow, or even combinations of these things.  Some multiple times.  Every single athlete, from the guy bowling high 200s to the tot running the 400-meter relay to the 17-year-old swimmer racing to six golds, represents a story of pain, courage, terror, suffering, sickness, worry, waiting, and, in the end thanks to the grace of donor families, and donors living and passed, a second chance at life.  Abso-fricking-lutely incredible.

It’s hard to believe closing ceremonies are as soon as tomorrow night. 

A few more pictures that didn’t fit my day three themes of track/field and basketball:

Showing his team spirit, fish style

Showing his team spirit, fish style

Florida's Kim Jacques with her silver for the 1500-meter speed walk

Florida's Kim Jacques with her silver for the 1500-meter speed walk

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Joe’s Team Northwest not only made it to the Elite 8, but even went on to the Final Four, where in a hard-fought battle they lost the Bronze to a marvelous Team Illinois.  Georgia took the Gold, and Michigan the silver. 

Team Liberty in their Elite 8 match

Team Liberty in their Elite 8 match

 

Team Liberty with the Team Northwest sasquatch mascot

Team Liberty with the Team Northwest sasquatch mascot

Team Illinois v. Team Michigan

Team Illinois v. Team Michigan

Georgia v. Northwest

Georgia v. Northwest

 

Team Georgia - Gold winners!

Team Georgia - Gold winners!

 

My brother with the tall guy (woo hoo!)

My brother with the tall guy (woo hoo!)

At half time, Northwest and Illinois were tied in the race for the Bronze.

At half time, Northwest and Illinois were tied in the race for the Bronze.

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For me, this is the shot of the day.  This wonderful woman from Pittsburgh didn’t finish first, second, or third in the women’s 1500-yard race, but she finished.

The spirit of the Transplant Games embodied.  Congratulations to her!!!

The spirit of the Transplant Games embodied. Congratulations to her!!!

Afterwards she talked for a while with a fellow athlete who, she had just learned that day, had gone to her same high school.

Just like any track and field tournament, there were events of all types — 4×4 relays, high jump, shotput and discus, softball throw, longer- and shorter-distance races…  Joe’s 4×4 relay team had to scratch due to a team injury, but the good news is I was free to walk around and grab photos all day.  And so, without further adieu:

 

The 4x4 relay team from Team Indiana, looking "fast"

The 4x4 relay team from Team Indiana, looking "fast"

Michelle from Team Northwest

Golds for shotput and discuss: Michelle from Team Northwest

 

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Okay, so it’s my blog, I get to do a little bragging.  Joe did not, alas, “dominate in ping pong” as I might have previously predicted, thanks to Darren from Team Arizona, but his 3-on-3 co-ed basketball team has advanced to the Elite 8 in the tournament for the Gold! I believe this portrait says it all…

Meanwhile, allow me to introduce you to the Games Day Two’s MVPs (Most Valued Parents):

But there are nearly 6,000 other people here besides my own clan, so let’s get to it!  First up, some pics from the ping pong extravaganza that took place in Hall B all day today:

From Team St. Louis (I think)

From Team St. Louis (I think)

Oh, the concentration!

Oh, the concentration!

Bob from Team Northwest

Bob from Team Northwest

From the hometown team (go Pittsburgh!)

From the hometown team (go Pittsburgh!)

The guy who eliminated my brother - Darren from Arizona (nice work!)

The guy who eliminated my brother - Darren from Arizona (nice work!)

Joe in action

Joe in action

But ping pong wasn’t the only event of the day.  I hear bone marrow recipient Michael, who lives in Calgary but plays on Team Arizona (nice arrangement that guy has going on!), went 6 for 6 golds in swimming, as did a 17-year-old teammate of his.  Jennifer, my brother’s fellow Team Northwest teammate and a coworker of his, scored two golds.  One of my hometown ladies from Minnesota brought home the top prize for women’s bowling, and, geez, who knows what else.  It’s impossible to be everywhere at once here — so much is going on every day. 

On to basketball, in which my bro’s team won two rounds to advance to tomorrow’s semi-semifinals.

Team Northwest. Booya!

Team Northwest. Booya!

Team Buffalo and (Illinois, maybe? not sure but will find out)
Team Buffalo and (Illinois, maybe?)

 

Northwest brought along a Sasquatch mascot. Wicked.

Northwest brought along a Sasquatch mascot. Wicked.

Fans (and a competing cyclist there on the right) from Wisconsin.

Fans (and a competing cyclist there on the right) from Wisconsin.

Michigan fan Jacob (here in honor of his donor uncle Scotty) has collected every team pin - and is a fierce negotiator to boot. He made me agree to wear his Michigan pin everywhere in exchange for snagging this photo!

Michigan fan Jacob (here in honor of his donor uncle Scotty) has collected every team pin - and is a fierce negotiator to boot. He made me agree to wear his Michigan pin everywhere in exchange for snagging this photo!

Team Florida cheers on their own against Team Liberty

Team Florida cheers on their own against Team Liberty

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