TRANSPLANT patients from all over the world are competing in the World Winter Transplant Games in the Alps – with 135 athletes taking part in 12 disciplines.
Aged from 15 to 60, they arrived in the Haute-Savoie ski resort of La Chapelle d'Abondance for a week of sport many thought they would never again enjoy. One told France Info: “We are all just people, just people who should be dead.”
The participants include those with heart, liver, kidney and lung transplants and all carry the message: You can live normally after an organ transplant.
One man who typifies that is Huddersfield man Mark Brown, 46, who is competing 19 years after a kidney transplant, and after winning a gold medal in curling in 2012 is this year taking part in the downhill ski events, including slalom and giant slalom.
Having a double lung transplant six years ago allowed 39-year-old Dunkirk woman Sabine Rodriguez to try sport for the first time and after running and Nordic walking she is competing in the cross-country skiing event.
She said: “I started running and Nordic walking because exercise is recommended for transplant patients – but I have a duty to use the organs that I received properly.”
Organisers of the games hope to publicise how successful transplants can be in giving “the gift of life”. They hope to reduce the level of refusals – which sees one in three donation requests being refused by the families.
Around 40,000 people in France are still alive thanks to a transplant but the number needing organs still exceeds the number of donors and each year more than 200 people die while awaiting a donor organ.
In France, doctors must ask families of the deceased for permission to use organs and people who want to be donors must tell their closest relatives: the people a hospital will contact in the case of an accident. They can also specify which organs can be used.
Anyone who does not want to be a donor must tell their families and can also sign for the Registre National du Refus.