The transplant swimmers celebrating the gift of life in the poolApril 6, 2019 Masters News
As hundreds of swimmers gathered for the Staffordshire Masters Meet, those inside the Freedom Leisure Centre wouldn’t have been able to tell that seven of them were lucky to be alive.
Between them, the members of the Transplant Sport Swimming Club have received seven organ transplants, including one liver, one heart, one set of lungs and four kidneys.
Sue Bennett, Louise McLellan, Ann Peet, Pam Lane, Janka Penther, Darren Smith and Richard Adams combined for the team’s largest attendance at a masters swimming event.
But when it came to the competition, the team’s setbacks were quickly forgotten, as they claimed 25 medals overall.
One of those was a bronze in the 200m mixed freestyle relay – the first time transplanted swimmers have competed as part of a relay.
For some members of the team, it was the first time they had beaten non-transplanted swimmers.
Janka, 36, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis, received a double lung transplant six years ago.
“I only learned freestyle about three years ago,” she said. “Any kind of competitive sport was just not possible with my Cystic Fibrosis lungs.
“Now I really enjoy pushing myself and seeing how much I can improve. Here, I am just a swimmer, not someone who is expected to perform worse due to my condition. That is still a new feeling for me.
“We are delighted to be able to play a part in promoting a greater awareness of the desperate need for more people to sign on the NHS Organ Donor Register, as well as the need for individuals to inform their families of their wishes to donate their organs after death and, ultimately, save lives.”
The gift of life
Ann, one of the newest members to the Transplant Sport Swimming Club, says the team has given her a new lease on life.
“My first gift of life has been receiving my new transplanted kidney,” she said.
“My second gift of life has been becoming involved in transplant sport and being part of the swim team. I never thought that what I have achieved so far was possible for someone like me.”
All seven swimmers will be part of Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the world Transplant Games, which takes place in Newcastle from 17-24 August.
According to the NHS, more than 50,000 people are alive across the UK as a result of organ donation, but more than 6,000 people are currently waiting for a transplant.
For more information on the Organ Donor Register, click here.