Supporting patients and families
Celebrating transplant patients
Thanks to generous donations, children as young as two who have had a transplant have been given the opportunity to compete in the annual British Transplant Games.
Spending time with other families and staff in an environment outside of the hospital provides children, parents and families with much-needed support, friendship and an opportunity to relax.
The British Transplant Games have been running for thirty years and are hosted annually in different cities throughout the UK. Between 7-10 August 2014, over a thousand supporters flocked to the event in Bolton in order to watch 600 inspirational transplant athletes take part in various sporting events.
One of the teams competing, Evelina VIPs, was set up by staff at Evelina London Children’s Hospital with the aim of encouraging patients to reach their full potential, and also to highlight the continued need for transplantation and organ donation. The team is managed by Paediatric Transplant Nurse Grainne Walsh, Senior Play Specialist Cathy Gill and Dispensary Manager Pat Hayes, with help from a group of dedicated volunteers.
Children and teenagers competed in a number of different sports such as running, swimming, squash and archery – an even more impressive achievement given the fact that they have all undergone complex transplant surgery.
Supported by donations
As it costs an average of £900 per person to take part in the Games, the hospital relies on donations to subsidise this for parents, and remove any additional financial burden for families.
In the children’s kidney transplant unit at Evelina London, there are approximately 90 children receiving ongoing care following their transplant, all of whom are encouraged to compete and be part of the Evelina VIPs team.
As well as demonstrating the patients’ return to health and fitness by taking part, the Games help to highlight the continued need for lifesaving transplantation and organ donation. Held in Sheffield in 2013, the British Transplant Games saw organ donor registrations in South Yorkshire rise by more than 22,000 names.
2-year-old Beau from Kingston (pictured right), who has had a kidney transplant at just 21 months old, was the youngest competitor to take part at the 2014 Games. He won a bronze medal in the under-fives 25 metre sprint.
‘This was his first transplant games and definitely the start of many,’ said Beau’s mother Kerri.
‘We had a brilliant time watching the kids competing including Beau in his obstacle race, the ball throw and track and we could not be prouder of them all and their wonderful achievements. We are already looking forward to next year's games. It’s a truly inspirational weekend,’ she says.
Jo Penhaligan’s son, George, won two bronze medals in badminton and ball throw, as well as two gold medals in swimming.
‘It is just so amazing to see these children competing when before their transplants any form of exercise would have been a challenge. The transplant games are a wonderful way to celebrate life and achievement, and also to promote organ donation,’ says Jo.
Pauline Potter has been supporting her daughter Emily. Emily has been competing in the Games for six years.
‘We just love the games – it's a time to be with other families who have been through the same experience as ourselves. We have made great friends along the way, who have now become our second family,’ she says.
Bringing people together
Many transplant recipients can feel different to their friends – especially teenagers. The Games help diminish any sense of isolation by allowing them to train and compete in sport with peers who have been through similar experiences – all while under careful medical supervision. At the same time, it promotes healthy competition and sportsmanship amongst the children and teenagers.
‘These children have been through a difficult time so the games are a celebration of their lives. They also get to spend time with other children who’ve been through the same thing and make friends for life,’ says Grainne.
2014 was Cathy’s twenty-second time at the Games with the children. ‘There is a lot of planning and fundraising all year round for the games, but it’s all worthwhile when we see how much they enjoy themselves and what the games mean to the children and their families. We’re so proud of them all,’ she says.
Your donations can make a huge difference. Help us ensure that more children reach their potential by supporting their families: find out how you can fundraise.