A bit of a splash for organ donations…

Killary 2022 (2)

In the last couple of years, sales of wetsuits, dry robes and fluorescent tow floats seem to have soared, as more and more people take the plunge into cold water swimming.  With the right care and attention, often in the company of a few friends, it can be a healthy adventure.  It can do wonders for those endorphins, which ease anxiety and depression and help create an improved sense of wellbeing.  You might wonder why we don’t all nip down to the local sports shop, get that huge changing robe and get on with it.  (NB There are other ways of producing endorphins than plunging into freezing water – fortunately.  Says a coward…)

Swimming, even in the kinder waters of the heated, chlorine-dosed pool, is generally a Good Thing.  For many who who have had transplants, swimming (and, yes, other sports and physical activity) can do all the above to assist with the recovery process, physical and mental.  It’s one of the most popular sports of the Transplant Games, and it’s not just about winning medals.

Lucia found a “happy place” in the water, swimming through it, surrounded by it, supported by it.  It was a place where her mind could find some respite.  Maybe it was no coincidence that she was born in a small birthing pool.  In the last couple of years, her Mum has found solace, energy and sheer pleasure in her regular swims from the beauty of our beach – whatever the temperature.

A couple of weeks ago, she accepted the challenge of a 2km swim in Ireland’s only fjord, beautiful steep-sided Killary, in Connemara. Jumping off the back of a boat with about 70 other people in her “wave” (there were about 550 swimmers in total), she was encouraged by the reassuring presence of kayakers and safety boats.  Much to Rachel’s surprise, and our relief, she completed her challenge in a few minutes over an hour, wading triumphantly ashore in brilliant sunshine.

It was a success.  Under the green, tagged swim cap of the Great Fjord Swim Event, Rachel wore Lucia’s red Birmingham Children’s Hospital swim cap.  With the confidence of a completed swim and a blue t-shirt to prove it, Rachel is hinting at another expedition to Killary next year.  Not only to swim, but to make a braver splash of publicity for organ donation, somehow.  There’s time to think about it.

The same day, in Donegal, Seamy McDermott celebrated 20 years since his kidney transplant with another challenge.  He’s already run 20km and cycled 600km this year and finished off his list with the Maple Swim, a 4km swim across Sheephaven Bay.

“My aim in doing all these challenges is remembering my kidney donor and their family. In doing so, I hope to raise the necessary funds for the renal unit at Letterkenny University Hospital. I want to do something that will be mentally and physically gruelling because the pain of these challenges can never come close to what being in the renal unit feels like.”

Of course, as we said, there are warmer, and easier ways to get those endorphins moving.  This Organ Donation Week, you could just go for a walk…  The week’s campaign is encouraging us to go for a walk (in shocking pink, if you like) and prompt some more conversations about organ donation.  You could get creative and walk a route in the shape of a heart, or a liver or kidney, or other transplanted organ, and even record the walk on a tracking app.  (You’ll have to look that one up yourself.).  When you’re back, warm, dry and comfortable, you could add some suitable photos to social media and use #OrganDonationWeek or tag @nhsorgandonor and see who else is out there doing the same.

Mental health, fitness, plenty of open air, maybe some cold water, and raising awareness of organ donation that could just mean someone else, maybe even someone you know, would be able to enjoy all of that as well…what’s to lose?2223-0263-odw-heart-walk-fb-1200x628