13 April 2023

~10 minutes read

SPORT: Messages of Goodwill Abound for local Athletes Australia Bound for World Transplant Games

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SPORT: Messages of Goodwill Abound for local Athletes Australia Bound for World Transplant Games

Fourteen Irish transplant recipients, including Galway’s Teresa Smyth, (listed below) will travel to Perth, Australia this week to represent Ireland at the World Transplant Games which commence this Saturday, 15th April and will continue until 21st April.

This follows a four-year hiatus for the biennial World Transplant Games, as the previous event planned for 2021 had to be cancelled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Messages of goodwill abound for the Irish team including words of encouragement from the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Australian Ambassador to Ireland Gary Gray, members of the medical profession including Clinical Lead Organ Donation Transplant Ireland Dr. Catherine Motherway, rugby sporting heroes, with lots more good wishes flowing in from the general public. 

Ranging in age from 36 right up to 75, the current Transplant Team Ireland panel of 10 inspirational men and 4 women travelling to Perth for the World Transplant Games have all received organ transplants including 2 liver, 2 bone marrow, and 10 kidney. They will be among  1,524 participants from 46 countries, all embracing their gift of life and honoring their donors in this celebration of life through sport.

Last month following Ireland’s Grand Slam Victory, rugby heroes Paul O’Connell and Mack Hansen took time out on the night of their celebrations to send video messages to Transplant Team Ireland wishing them success in Perth..https://transplantteamireland.ie/2023/03/19/grand-slam-winning-support/

In a video message Taoiseach Leo Varadkar congratulated Transplant Team Ireland whom he described as ‘inspiring’  for representing their country which ‘is a proud achievement’ for them and their families.   He said “The World Transplant Games are a true celebration of life and possibility,  and your patriciation is a great example to all those who have received the gift of donation. Your participation in the games shows sincere dedication to fitness and a deep appreciation of the second chance of life that you have been given. It is also an important way of honouring the organ donor and their families who made that possible. Organ Donation is among  the most selfless acts we can bestow on one another and we have a duty to do everything we can to ensure that as many people benefit as possible.  The government knows this and is committed to increasing organ donation and transplantation rates in Ireland by making organ donation the norm.  We have taken steps over the past few years to develop and improve transplant services in Ireland through extra dedicated funding.”

The Taoiseach described how the The Human Tissue Bill when transposed into law will “change the model for organ donation in Ireland by introducing ‘Deemed Consent’  and expanding the pathways for living and altruistic organ donation helping to substantially increase the donor pool in Ireland”. In summing up, Taoiseach Varadkar said, “The best of luck to Team Ireland and continued good health to you all.” https://we.tl/t-JzPC9e37WX

In a written message to the team Dr. Catherine Motherway, Clinical Lead, Organ Donation Transplant Ireland, HSE said, “On behalf of all my colleagues in intensive care, Organ Donation Transplant Ireland, transplant teams, and all who support organ donation and transplantation, most especially our donors, both living and deceased, we wish to send our heartfelt support to our athletes attending the World Transplant games in Perth. Fourteen transplant recipients will represent Ireland and honour and remember their donors and the Gift of Life given to them. They participate in sport to celebrate that Gift with athletes from all over the world! That Gift of Life is given freely and often in the most difficult of times. It is priceless and is cherished by recipients. To our donor families who we remember and thank you ! Go n-eirí an t-ádh libh! “

Australian Ambassador to Ireland Gary Gray extended his best wishes to the team via video message saying “We are saying goodbye, good luck and farewell, to the terrific Irish team going to Perth, my hometown in Perth, to compete in the World Transplant Team. It takes a lot of courage to be part of the transplant programme and it takes a lot of courage to be part of the world games,. Teams competing, teams of people who have undergone this important treatment. But also, even more important, getting attention to the idea of organ transplants so people become organ donors so that we can make this whole virtuous cycle work even better for people and for future generations. Good Luck.”  

Last month the Irish squad gathered at the ALSAA Sports Complex, Dublin airport on Sunday, 12th March and were joined by family, friends and other members of the Transplant Team Ireland programme, to receive their official team kit.  The guest speaker at the event organised by the Irish Kidney Association was former Olympian triathlete Gavin Noble, the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s Chef de Mission for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and 2023 European Games.

In his talk to Transplant Team Ireland, Gavin Noble shared some of the wisdom he gained from the lead up to, and participation in, the 2012 Olympic Games in London and how he is now invested into helping other athletes be the best that they can be. He said, “Each and every one of you on the Transplant Team are an inspiration as you are living your best life, honouring your donors and representing your country in sport.  Sport brings people together as does organ donation”. 

Team Ireland member Ron Grainger, a kidney transplant recipient and retired Urologist from Castleknock, Dublin, captured the essence of the Games iexperience in an interview to camera when he said, “If I win something, well and good, If I don’t, what a joy just to be able to take part.” https://transplantteamireland.ie/athlete-profiles/ronald-grainger/

The Irish Kidney Association is responsible for managing and supporting Transplant Team Ireland’s involvement at the Games and its National Advocacy and Projects Manager Colin Whiteis the Team Manager. Speaking at the team gathering, he said, “It’s great to see the return of the World Transplant Games bringing the transplant community back together after the global pandemic. The World Transplant Games is about more than just sport, it is about camaraderie and the shared message that organ donation works. It’s about honouring organ donors and their families and being a role model for others who are newly diagnosed with organ failure. With a mix of seasoned campaigners and new team members, this year’s squad will carry on the team’s long legacy of supporting each other and every performance by every competitor. Our two competitors over the age of 70 are a fantastic example to us all in that sport can, and should, be a life-long habit. Each competitor is an ambassador in their own right and, collectively, the team sends out a wonderfully uplifting message about how life can be post-transplant”.

Competition at the Games is by age category and Transplant Team Ireland will have representatives  in the following eleven sports:  Cycling; Darts; Golf; Lawn Bowls; Petanque; Road Race; Swimming; Table Tennis; Ten Pin Bowling; Tennis; and Triathlon.

Each of the athletes is funding their participation in the Games (Games registration, flights, accommodation, and meals) through fundraising in the name of the Irish Kidney Association/Transplant Team Ireland, and using their own funds.  The team is proud to wear the Team Kit which, this year, has been sponsored by the Health Services Staffs Credit Union (HSSCU). Its Chief Executive Sean Hosford, said, “HSSCU are very proud to be involved with the Transplant Team Ireland and provide support. It’s an organisation that is doing brilliant work. Supporting our members and the wider community is an integral part of how HSSCU operates. On a personal level and as a family that have benefited from organ donation, I’m very aware of the life changing benefits afforded transplant recipients by such a wonderful gesture. Everyone involved wishes each of the athletes competing the very best at the games. It’s an honour to be involved in a small way with an Irish team competing internationally. We look forward to following the team closely once the games get started”.

As transplant recipients are more at risk of skin cancer, a welcome sponsorship in the form of sunscreen for the team,  facilitated by former Team doctor Claire Kennedy, was generously donated by La Roche Posay.

To find out more about the World Transplant Games visit website www.worldtransplantgames.org

and to find out more about members of Transplant Team Ireland and to follow their progress at the Games, you can follow the team blog; www.transplantteamireland.ie

THE FULL IRISH PANEL IS AS FOLLOWS INCLUDING THEIR TRANSPLANT ORGAN  (their individual ‘athlete profiles’ are on the team blog  www.transplantteamireland.ie ) :-

CARLOW:  Brian Duignan, Palatine (kidney)

Tony Gartland, Hacketstown near WICKLOW (Liver)

CORK:  Michael Kiely, Ballylanders, Mitchelstown, on LIMERICK border (living kidney donor)

Pat O’Sullivan, Mallow (kidney)

Hugh Nolan, Donaraile (kidney)

Mairead O’Mahony, Berrings (bone marrow)

GALWAY:  Teresa Smyth, Williamstown, Dunmore, Tuam (kidney)

KILDARE: Bernadette Cox, Newbridge (kidney)

LIMERICKJohn Loftus, Clarina (kidney)

MEATH: Tony Gavigan, Navan and native of LONGFORD father of deceased donor (kidney)  

TIPPERARY: Sheila Gregan, Nenagh, (kidney)

DUBLIN: Ron Grainger, Castleknock, D 15 (kidney)

Finbar O’Regan, Pearse Street, Dublin 2 (Liver)

Nick Heather, Sutton, Dublin, now living in Melbourne, Australia (bone marrow)

TEAM MANAGER, Colin White from Balbriggan, Dublin

While some of the team will be extending their time in Australia after the World Transplant Games conclude, about half of the team will return home on Sunday, 23rd April on a Qatar flight to Dublin airport’s Terminal One and their flight is scheduled to land at 1.40pm 

Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to Share their Wishes with their family and keep the reminders of their decision available by carrying the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence or having the ‘digital organ donor card’ App on their smartphone. Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the IKA website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or  to your phone, phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.

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