Evelina London Children’s Hospital tells The Irish World about the British Transplant Games
You may not have heard of the Transplant Games, however to the competitors, their families, supporters and staff at Evelina London Children’s Hospital the Games are a major highlight of the year.
From very humble beginnings in Portsmouth some 37 years ago, the Games have grown to become an annual successful and highly competitive sporting event. Approximately 750 competitors ranging in age from 2 years to 70+ years compete in a wide range of competition from track and field events, to swimming, badminton, tennis, and canoeing. The British Transplant Games are a national sporting event whose main aims are to celebrate life and to promote transplantation. It achieves these aims in a number of ways:
1. The athletes (both adults & children) who have previously been seriously ill can demonstrate their return to health and fitness by taking part in serious sport. All competitors have undergone a vital lifesaving transplant. Transplant recipients are never cured and will remain patients for life.
2. The Games highlight the continued need for transplantation and organ donation. They act as a forum to thank donor families who made one of the most difficult decisions of their lives, by agreeing to donate their loved one’s organs to help save the life of another human being.
The team at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital sent us the following:
“Many see transplantation as a cure for people with organ failure; however we see transplantation not as a cure, but the very best treatment option available for both children and adults who have severe and irreversible kidney, heart, lung or liver disease.
“When you receive a transplant, life long medicines and frequent hospital appointments are a vital part of life to help prevent the organ being rejected. Many transplant recipients can feel different to their friends, in particular the teenagers we work with here at Evelina London.
“The Games allow them to train and compete in serious sport with their peers who have been through similar experiences, all under careful medical guidance. We should tell you the Transplant Games are the only competition we know of where a negative drugs screen would mean you would be disqualified and thrown off the team!!!!!
“We often joke that our children are very important people, hence VIPs however, our transplant clinic is situated in the Penguin Zone of the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, so our competitors are actually the Very Important Penguins!! Our team celebrate life and the Evelina crew aim to provide a fun environment away from the stresses and anxieties of hospital. The Games allow our children and families some much needed support where they can quickly realise they are not alone and can learn from and support one and other for long after the Games weekend has ended!
“In the children’s kidney transplant unit here at Evelina London there are approximately 90 children under our continued care following their transplant. We believe each child should be supported and encouraged to reach their potential in life, whatever that may be.
One way to help the children achieve this is by encouraging them to focus on training for the Games and by encouraging their healthy competitiveness and good sportsmanship. We are very proud team managers who see evidence of this sportsmanship from the Evelina children every day of the Games however, it doesn’t end there as we see evidence of it regularly throughout the year in our transplant clinic and ward.
We were so proud of the sportsmanship of one young teenager 14 years ago that we now award the Evelina good sportsmanship shield annually.
“We encourage the taking part and doing one’s best in all of the events, and are always thrilled when our children achieve this. The Games however, are such an emotional weekend, where the winner receives an amazing ovation; however it is the only competition we know of where the last person past the post is given an often equally thrilling ovation. To see the determination of the competitors is truly a humbling and inspirational experience.
“We actively encourage all our children who are well enough to compete to do so. Our team motto is ‘Simply the Best’ and our anthem can be heard on numerous occasions throughout the weekend (with apologies to Tina Turner!!!). The Games can cost on average £900 per child; we try as a team to subsidise the cost for the families, removing any additional financial burden that families with a chronically ill child can have and remain so very grateful for the long term and continued support from both the Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, the Guy’s & St Thomas Kidney Patients Association and the British Kidney Patient’s Association who assist us achieve our amazing goals; we also actively fundraise amongst the team. All our competitors are encouraged to fund raise for their team.
The Games weekend is a hugely positive but emotional experience for all involved. Spending time with other families and staff away from the hospital allows the children, parents and families the opportunity to relax and receive vital support and friendship. Games 2015 were held in the summer in Newcastle when 30 children competed as Evelina VIPs, being very positive ambassadors for transplantation and our hospital. They came home with 57 medals and the National Best Kidney Kids award. We’re already busy making preparations for Games 2016 which will be held in Liverpool in July next year.
“We are very grateful for your interest in our team and the British Transplant Games and invite you to view a short film about what the games mean to us on our team website at www.evelinavips.org.uk and you can follow the team progress and news on twitter @evelina_vips”
A fundraiser is taking place for the Transplant Games at the Sydenham Catholic Club, Watlington Grove, London SE26 5RR, on Saturday 21st November. Music by Mary and the New Counties from 8pm till late, tickets are just £5, available on the door.
You can reach the Evelina London team on 020 7188 4590 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org