British Transplant Games, Liverpool 2016 Clean Supper Club
The summer holidays now mark a very special event for our family (Sarah), as we all attend the British Transplant Games. The games are held every year in a different city & bring together people of all ages (the youngest being 3!) who have all had a transplant.
This year it was in Liverpool, & being based in Cheshire it really was our home games, so an extra special event. Over 800 competitors & a few thousand supporters descended on Liverpool for 4 days & gave their absolute best in over 20 different sporting events. There is never a dry eye in the crowd when you see the under 5’s lined up on the athletics track ready to run in their 25m dash! Just amazing! It was truly inspirational - a weekend filled with laughter, hope, remembrance & a celebration of the gift of life.
Our family have been going to the games for 7 years now, ever since our eldest, Luca, was 3! Luca had a liver transplant when he was 2 years old. Luca was born perfectly healthy but at 2 years 2 months became ill very suddenly, out of the blue, & rapidly went downhill with acute liver failure. He became so ill that he was placed at the top of the super urgent transplant list & thankfully a donor was found just in time. It was 16 days from when he first became ill to the day of his transplant. To this day we don’t know why his liver failed (an as yet unknown viral condition we’ve been told by consultants). We are forever thankful to the donor family who made that incredibly brave decision & they are always in our thoughts.
The British Transplant Games have become an important event in Luca’s life, a safe-haven, and the games feels like another family where he meets children who all have a scar across their tummies like he does. He has made new friends & we have a new support network too. It’s a time when we as a family are with other families who have been through something similar, we understand, support & are there for each other.
All the teams competing in the games represent the hospital they had their transplant, so Luca is a part of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital team (BCH for short!). They have a specialist Liver Unit, which is why Luca was transferred there for his transplant. We had our biggest team yet this year with 42 competitors, from age 3-16!
Luca competed in the 9-11 year age group in 5 events – obstacle race, long jump, mini marathon (3k), 50m sprint & swimming. He also competed in an extra event – the team relay. Two of these events were new to him so he had been training hard, & placed 4th in both swimming & the mini marathon, which he completed in 15 mins 49 seconds, a PB. He did so well & we are incredibly proud of him! He came away with 5 medals this year! A gold in Sports stacking, Silver in Long Jump, a Bronze in the 50m sprint as well as medals for the mini marathon & team tug of war!
This year the BCH team (including supporters) all joined the Donor Run along the Liverpool waterfront. This year we all ran in memory of Luke, another BCH team member and a popular person, who very sadly passed away recently.
Luca also had a special role this year as Ambassador for Westfield Health, one of the main sponsors of the games. This meant he had a few duties to perform, such as lighting the Transplant Games flame at the VIP partners’ event & giving a few interviews! The last of these was at the Gala Dinner on the last day of the games in front of over 1000 people – he was so confident & didn’t seem phased at all! This was such an achievement for our little boy who really hates doing anything like that in front of people.
The end of the games is marked with a huge Gala Dinner & celebration with trophies being awarded to the best individuals & teams. We were so incredibly proud to see Birmingham Children’s Hospital win the Best Liver Team & Best Overall Children’s Team (for the 20th year running!). And rather fittingly this win was dedicated to the memory of Luke, our team member who sadly passed away this year.
So thank you to our BCH family, you all mean the world to us - amazing children, amazing sporting performances & amazing supporters. You are all an absolute credit to your donor families. Also a huge thank you to the Team Managers who organise & look after us all (Sara, Helen, Gemma, Vicky, Jane & Lizzie) – they all work at the hospital & each year dedicate their time voluntarily.
It was an incredibly special few days. Thank you to all the athletes & families. And a massive thank you to our friends & family who came to support Luca too! We can’t wait to do it all again next year!!! North Lanarkshire 2017 here we come!!!!
There are more than 10,000 people in the UK currently awaiting a transplant. No one wants to think about it happening to them or someone they love but PLEASE sign up to the organ donation register (if you haven’t already) & most importantly have the conversation with your loved ones about your wishes. Thank you.