Every year, the Transplant Games happens in a different city around the UK. Every year, somewhere upwards of 700 transplant athletes compete in a wide range of sports, and at a wide range of abilities.
And every year, there are a few moments that stick out and you remember more than others. I think this year there were a lot of really special moments for me that I know will stay with me forever.
This was the first year that I competed as an adult, for my new team – Transplant Sport Northern Ireland. They welcomed me into the team with classic Irish friendliness and made me feel right at home! Although I don’t think I’m quite ready to say goodbye completely to Birmingham Children’s Hospital team, so I was helping out as a team manager for them as well – which made it an extremely busy few days to say the least but I wouldn’t change a thing.
One of the best bits of the games is the very first day when you see everyone again for the first time probably since the last games a year ago. I love catching up with all the great people you meet over the years, some of them I have known now for ten years since my first ever games!
This year the games were held in Birmingham, home away from home for me and BCH home turf which was pretty exciting, and I knew it would be a great year. It was even better than expected.
At the opening ceremony, we broke a world record with the most transplanted people in one room at the same time. The final number was 731 transplantees and it was incredible to be a part of that. However, there were over 800 athletes competing overall during the weekend!
Every year, without fail, one of my most favourite moments of the whole event has to be when the donor families and living donors parade into the opening ceremony. I get goose bumps every time. Everyone stands, everyone cheers, and everyone knows that these are the people who make everything that we do possible. Without them, there would be no games, no transplants and that’s why we do it.
The Saturday is a full day at the pool for me, and just in case you couldn’t have guessed it – this is my favourite day. Last year, and again this year I have helped poolside with the kids’ swimming which is manic but amazing. I lose my voice every year because of this. I think the kids’ swimming was especially good this year and it was exhilarating to watch the races that had less than a second between gold and silver! One particular race that I won’t forget, that was just so incredibly close the whole way through, and it was the BCH swimmer that got the gold by less than a second! I just can’t explain the atmosphere during and after that race. That is what the games is about for me, the sportsmanship shown between two competitors and friends.
So, after cheering all morning for the juniors, it was my turn to compete. I went into this year’s competition wanting to try my best of course but convinced I wouldn’t be coming away with any kind of success, definitely not medal wise. I had been quite sick and had a few hospital admissions in the last few months, as well as trying to study for A levels, so it’s safe to say I hadn’t spent much time in the pool and definitely wasn’t at my fittest.
It always reminds of how much I love to compete though, diving into the cold pool and racing up that black line. The adrenaline pumps, I get butterflies as I stand on the block, and I give absolutely everything I have got. Leave nothing in the pool. One of the coaches for Transplant Swimming used to say it before every race. “Lucia, leave NOTHING in the pool. Give it everything you have and more.” So that is what I do. And somehow, I ended up with two bronze medals and a silver. I was a very happy girl.
Standing on the podium, with girls I’ve competed against for years, and who are incredibly inspirational swimmers, was quite an amazing moment. I was very proud of us all.
The biggest shock is that I have now got the trophy for Best Adult Female sitting on my shelf at home. Excuse me? Yup.
A friend of mine, who won the trophy, decided to donate it to me this year. I guess we both think the other one deserves it. I was speechless when I realised what she was doing, it was the kindest thing. Thanks Nicole xx
On the last night, we have a Gala Dinner. This is something I would love for every single person to experience. To feel the atmosphere in the room and see all the transplant recipients celebrating life.
My journey as given me so many more opportunities and experiences than I could ever have wished for. The life I live is due to the gift I have been given (three times just cause I’m greedy).
The fact that it has taken me so long to put this blog up is probably because of how much sleep I needed after the Games. It is definitely not easy going and I always come back absolutely exhausted. You have to party while you can.
There is nothing more worth it though. It’s the best weekend of the year.
Bring on Newport 2019!
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