It has been a whirlwind few months. May – Washington D.C. Exams. More Exams. Swim training. 18th birthday. More training. Exams finished = more training. June – Malaga for the World Transplant Games 2017!
This is life. This is life after a transplant – or three. This is life recovering from anorexia. This is life with a liver condition. This is life both because of and despite the things I have been through, and sometimes I don’t quite know how I got this lucky. It excites me pretty much every day that this is my life. It can feel quite surreal at times that this is the life I live, and certain moments can hit me, and I suddenly just remember how lucky I am. It is often the tiniest things that remind me, but something like the World Transplant Games recently in Malaga was a very big deal for me and I definitely had more than one moment like that.
It has been quite a journey for me to get to these World Games, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the journey started over two years ago. As soon as I signed the consent forms for my third liver transplant (and a big reason why I did sign them) my goal was to be picked for the team to go to Malaga, and to compete at these Games.
There were a fair number of hurdles to overcome before that could happen though, one of the biggest was being able to find a donor. This is the common denominator for all the athletes at the Transplant Games, the one hurdle we all have in common and it is the one which we really have no control over. Which is why I do this, the blog, the Live Loudly campaign, raising awareness. So that more people talk and more people sign the register, so we have more donors, and we have more transplants.
A donor was found for me and thanks to them and their family, I was given another chance. And I knew that I was going to make the absolute most of it. So, I recovered and started training as soon as I could which was around September last year, and did my best to make sure I was going into the competition having done everything I could have. Trying to juggle training and studying for A Levels resulted in fairly small amounts of sleep at times but hey…what can you do?
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I love to compete. I love the jitters in your stomach as you wait for your race, I love the hype as you’re called to sit in the waiting area for your race, I love the calm and the focus as you stand in front of the diving block – picturing the race, breathing, getting your muscles ready to give everything they have. I love the way it feels when you hit the wall and the race is finished and you know that there is no more you could have done, you have given it everything and that’s all you can do.
The only thing I do not enjoy about competing, is spending fifteen minutes getting into that flipping race suit – anyone who has ever worn a racing tech suit will understand that it is NOT FUN. But the bruises and cuts from getting it on are worth it in the end and it does feel incredible to race in.
I knew that this year would be tough, and not for a minute did I expect a medal this time around. I knew that with what I have gone through the past three years, I was just incredibly lucky and proud to be competing, and to be honest I didn’t even expect to get a Personal Best time, because all of the PB’s I was trying to break were set years ago when I was at my fastest, and the last three years hadn’t happened yet.
The competition was incredible, and having just moved up to the 18 – 29 year age category, I knew it was a big jump from juniors. The competition was just too strong for me to medal, however I am so proud to be coming home with two new Personal Best’s, in the 50m Front crawl and in the 100m Front crawl. I really gave it everything I had in me, and when I hit the wall at the end of my races I was completely exhausted in the best possible way.
I compete for myself, because I love it, but I also compete to show what organ donation does for people. Some of the World Transplant Games records that are being set are just a few seconds away from the Olympic Records. Transplant athletes come with many different abilities – all showing that there is an incredible life to be lived after transplant. We do it to make the most of our gift, to thank our donors and to raise awareness of organ donation. I know that I will continue to train and compete for as long as I can – because I can. Because this time two years ago I was not well at all, and was in a wheelchair most of the time. But because of my donor my body is getting strong, I can swim and train and compete against the best of the best in transplant sport. That is what a donor gives you. That and so, so much more. That is what can come from a simple conversation around the dinner table.
Please talk to your family and friends about organ donation.
You sign up, I’m signing off,