Seventeen inspirational transplant athletes from Barts Health NHS Trust have arrived back home victorious after competing in the Westfield Health British Transplant Games 2018 in Birmingham.
Over 1,000 transplant recipients from across the UK competed in this year’s Games. Despite stiff competition, the Barts Health NHS team arrived home laden with one gold medal, ten silver medals and ten bronze medals – a real testament to the life-changing power of organ donation.
Open to all transplant recipients, the Games seek to celebrate the life-changing effects of transplantation and encourage transplant patients to regain fitness, while increasing public awareness of the need for more people to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register and discuss their wishes now with their families.
In 2017/18, Royal London Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, conducted 130 renal transplants for patients in and around east London as well as Essex. However, with organs for transplantation in short supply, Barts Health currently has more than 300 patients on the waiting list for a transplant.
43 year old Francine Fernandes from Bethnal Green won a bronze medal in the women’s badminton doubles at this year’s British Transplant Games for Barts Health NHS Trust. She said: “I’m honoured to have competed in this year’s British Transplant Games for Barts Health NHS Trust. Even though I’ve been through a lot, I was surrounded by fellow athletes who completely inspired me. The Games isn’t just about winning medals – it’s about solidarity. I kept thinking how honoured I was to be competing alongside such incredible people. It was great for us all to be seen as athletes instead of patients.”
Francine suffered from kidney failure in her early twenties and lost both her kidneys: “I spent a year on dialysis, during which time I had to live at home with my parents and I wasn’t able to work. My brother then offered to donate me his kidney. I had his kidney for fifteen years and it completely transformed my life. I simply wouldn’t be here without my brother. The transplant meant I could live my life fully and enjoy my twenties! I moved down to London, lived independently and became a Deputy Director of a charity.”
Unfortunately, her brother’s kidney failed in 2014 and soon afterwards Francine was diagnosed with breast cancer. Whilst fighting her cancer, Francine had to go back on dialysis. She is now four years clear of cancer, and in one year’s time will be deemed suitable for her second kidney transplant. Francine added: “I can’t wait for my transplant. It will be my incredible partner of 23 years who will be giving me his kidney this time around. We joke that he’s my ideal match in more ways than one.
“I’m beyond grateful to the incredible team at The Royal London Hospital who have cared for me throughout my cancer and transplant journeys. I am also incredibly grateful to my brother and partner who have been willing to be my donors. My brother’s kidney not only saved my life, but allowed me to go out and live my life independently. I’m hopeful that in a year’s time, I will have a whole new lease of life once again.
“I went back to The Royal London for dialysis the day after returning from the games. I was proudly wearing my team jacket and my bronze medal.”
Conrad Ryan, London Barts Health Team Manager, said: “The Games are a great place for transplanted patients to come together, feel comfortable in their own skin, make friends and learn about each other’s journeys. The event also allows the athletes to thank their donors in a very unique and powerful way – showing they are living life to the fullest.
“I am very proud of my team. Some of the team members were new to the Games this year, but they trained hard, competed well, and everyone had a really good time. For those that managed to come home with a medal, that was just the icing on the cake.”