Celebrating the gift of life; The Australian Transplant Games launched to promote organ donation; ABC New Castle News; humanrescueintermedia

15 August, 2012 1:52PM AEST

Celebrating the gift of life

By Jeannette McMahon (online producer)

Newcastle may have no chance of hosting the Olympics, but a major sporting event is coming here soon. The Australian Transplant Games were launched this week and start on September 29.

The games, which are being held in the Hunter for the first time, will bring 500 athletes and as many supporters to the city.

The competitors will include children and adults who have received kidney, heart, lung, liver or other transplants.

Chief executive officer of Transplant Australia, Chris Thomas, came to the 1233 ABC studios to speak with Aaron Kearney when he was in Newcastle to launch the event.

He says there are two main reasons for staging the games.

"It’s to help them rehabilitate and get exercising and make sure that they look after that really precious commodity that’s on board," he says.

"They’ve been given the gift of life, and we want them to be able to look after it.

"They’ll be quite emotional, they’ll be thanking their donors and they’ll also just be celebrating life.

"The second reason, the most important reason, is to spread the word about organ and tissue donation."

Chris says there were only 77 organ donors in NSW last year and a consent rate of just over 50%, which means almost half of suitable organ donors’ families are declining to donate.

He says it’s important for all of us to make our wishes on organ donation known, either on our driver’s licence or on the Australian Organ Donation register.

The CEO says an open discussion with your family about organ donation can make the decision much easier for them if the situation arises.

The games will honour organ donors, their families and also living donors with a wreath-laying ceremony off Nobbys headland.

"We’re hoping lots of donor families will come along," Chris says.

He explains that donors’ families don’t know exactly who received their loved one’s organs as there are laws that keep such information confidential.

"Because a gift should be a gift, there shouldn’t be strings attached," he says.

The games will include a fun run at the Newcastle Foreshore on September 30, which the public are invited to join.

You’ll also be able to watch the transplant games events at various venues around the city, including the Hunter Athletics Centre at Glendale, New Lambton swimming pool and Nesca Park.

While you won’t see heavy contact sports such as rugby league and union because of the risk of damage to the precious donated organs, Chris says the competitors are healthy and fit and living normal lives.

However they have to be careful with sun exposure and the risk of skin cancer due to the immuno-suppressant drugs they must take.

The Australian Transplant Games run from September 29 until October 6 in Newcastle, and you can find further details on their website.


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