The Evelina VIPs
You may not have heard of the Transplant Games, however to the competitors, their families, supporters and staff here at the Evelina Children’s Hospital the Games are a major highlight of the year.
From very humble beginnings in Portsmouth some 35 years ago, the Games have grown to become a successful and highly competitive sporting event. Approximately 650 competitors ranging in age from 3 years to 70+ years compete in a wide range of competition from track and field events, to swimming, badminton, tennis, and canoeing for example. The British Transplant Games are an annual national sporting event whose main aims are to celebrate life and to promote transplantation. It achieves these aims in a number of ways: -
- The athletes (both adults & children) who have previously been seriously ill can demonstrate their return to health and fitness by taking part in serious sport. All competitors have undergone a vital lifesaving transplant.
- The Games highlight the continued need for transplantation and organ donation. They act as a forum to thank donor families who made one of the most difficult decisions of their lives, by agreeing to donate their loved one’s organs to help save the life of another human being.
Many see transplantation as a cure for people with organ failure; however we see transplantation not as a cure, but the very best treatment option available for both children and adults who have severe and irreversible kidney, heart, lung or liver disease. When you receive a transplant, life long medicines and frequent hospital appointments are a vital part of life to help prevent the organ being rejected. Many transplant recipients can feel different to their friends, in particular the teenagers we work with here at the Evelina Hospital. The Games allow them to train and compete in serious sport with their peers who have been through similar experiences, all under careful medical guidance. We should tell you the Transplant Games are the only competition we know of where a negative drugs screen would mean you would be disqualified and thrown off the team!!!!!!
We often joke that our children are very important people, hence VIPs however, our transplant clinic is situated in the Penguin Zone of the Evelina Children’s Hospital, so our competitors are actually the Very Important Penguins!! Our team celebrates life and the Evelina crew aim to provide a fun environment away from the stresses and anxieties of hospital. The Games allow our children and families some much needed support where they can quickly realise they are not alone and can learn from and support one and other for long after the Games weekend has ended!
In the children’s kidney transplant unit here at the Evelina Children’s Hospital there are approximately 90 children who are under our continued care following their transplant. We believe each child should be supported and encouraged to reach their potential in life, whatever that may be. One way to help the children achieve this is by encouraging them to focus on training for the Games and by encouraging their healthy competitiveness and good sportsmanship. We are very proud team managers who see evidence of this sportsmanship from the Evelina children every day of the Games however, it doesn’t end there as we see evidence of it regularly throughout the year in our transplant clinic and ward. We were so proud of the sportsmanship of one young teenager 12 years ago that we now award the Evelina good sportsmanship shield annually.
We encourage the taking part and doing one’s best in all of the events, and are always thrilled when our children achieve their best. The Games however are such an emotional weekend, where the winner receives an amazing ovation, however, it is the only competition we know of where the last person past the post is given an often equally thrilling ovation. To see the determination of the competitors is truly a humbling and inspirational experience.
We actively encourage all our children who are well enough to compete to do so. Our team motto is ‘Simply the Best’ and our anthem can be heard on numerous occasions throughout the weekend (with apologies to Tina Turner!!!). The Games can cost on average £900 per child; we try as a team to subsidise the cost for the families, removing any additional financial burden that families with a chronically ill child can have and remain so very grateful for the long term and continued support from both the Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity and the Guy’s & St Thomas Kidney Patients Association who assist us achieve our amazing goals; we also actively fundraise amongst the team.
The Games weekend is a hugely positive but emotional experience for all involved. Spending time with other families and staff away from the hospital allows the children, parents and families the opportunity to relax and receive vital support and friendship.