Transplant Sport NI

Transplant Sport NI team

Transplant Sport NI team attend British Transplant Games 2022

28 July 2022

17 transplanted patients from Northern Ireland are attending the British Transplant Games as part of the Transplant Sport Northern Ireland team. 

After an absence of two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the British Transplant Games (BTG) are returning to Leeds.  Often referred to as a ‘celebration of life’, the Games have been running for over 40 years, and transplant survivors including children as young as five can compete in more than 25 sports, with many athletes going on to compete at the World Transplant Games.  The Games are also an opportunity to show appreciation for, and remember, organ donors and their families.

Teams from hospitals across the UK come together to compete in a medley of sports over the 4-day event.  It attracts around 1,000 transplant athletes and more than 1,700 supporters.

This year, 17 transplanted patients from Northern Ireland are attending the Games as part of the Transplant Sport Northern Ireland (TSNI) team.  They will be supported by two Belfast Health and Social Care Trust staff who will provide medical support to the team.

This years’ team ranges in age from 18 to 60+ consisting of 8 Kidney transplantees, 4 Liver recipients, 4 patients who have had their life transformed through bone marrow transplants, and 1 living donor who is competing after donating her kidney to her sister, who is also attending.  The team are taking part in a wide range of sports including swimming, basketball, archery, table tennis, indoor bowl, ten-pin bowling, badminton, golf, cycling and track and field.  For the first time ever, TSNI are competing in the 5-a-side football competition and are grateful to the IFA for their support in donating kit to the team.

Speaking about the team going to the Games, TSNI Team Manager, athlete and kidney recipient Kathryn Glover commented:

Year on year we see the benefits that attendance at the Games has on new transplantees.  In many cases sport has become a regular part of their transplant rehabilitation with members joining local sports clubs, setting new sporting challenges, whilst some have even gone on to represent NI at European and World Transplant Games in their chosen sport.  This has a lasting impact on patients overall health, well-being and in many cases maintaining stable graft function”.

Kathryn went on to say:

“As there has been no Games since 2019 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we have seven newly transplanted patients who will be attending their first BTG this year. All new members are extremely keen to attend and have the opportunity to compete in new sporting opportunities which were stalled due to ill health and/or covid.”

Kathryn finished by saying:

“The Games also help to demonstrate the benefits of transplantation whilst increasing public awareness of the need for more people to join the NHS Organ Donation Register and discuss their organ donation decision with their families.”

In spring next year, the law around organ donation in Northern Ireland will change to an opt-out system.  ‘Dáithí’s Law’, named after 5-year-old organ donation campaigner Dáithí Mac Gabhann who has been awaiting the gift of a new heart for over 4 years, will mean in the event that organ donation is a possibility after you die, it will be considered that all adults agree to being an organ donor unless they choose to opt out or are in an excluded group.  The best way to opt out is by registering a decision not to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

As organ and tissue donation and transplantation saves and transforms hundreds of lives each year, the new law will help more people save more lives by making it easier for those who support organ donation to say ‘yes’ to giving the ‘gift of life’.  This is because while 90% of people in Northern Ireland support organ donation, only 52% of people have registered their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Only 1% of people will die in circumstances where donation is possible, generally in hospital on a ventilator, which illustrates the shortage of organs and why every donation is precious.  Sadly, last year in Northern Ireland 15 people died awaiting a transplant.

Last year in Northern Ireland, 55 amazing families supported the gift of organ donation, which enabled 127 life-saving transplants across the UK.  Organ donation is a most precious gift and the selfless act of donors and their families is at the heart of organ donation.  100 lives in Northern Ireland were saved and transformed through deceased organ donation last year, however, there are around 122 people currently awaiting a transplant…waiting for the call to give them ‘the gift of life’. 

It is extremely important to share your organ donation decision with those close to you.  Should the worst happen, families find the organ donation conversation much easier if they already know what their relative would have wanted. Only a half of families agree to organ donation going ahead if they don’t know their loved ones’ decision, but this rises to 9 out of 10 if the family has had a conversation. 

You can continue register an opt-in decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register up to and after the law change next spring.  By doing so, you can proactively show your support for organ donation, giving loved ones the confidence and comfort to support your decision.