Canadian Transplant Games: The Power of Community

MScPT student Gillian Young reflects on her experience volunteering at The Canadian Transplant Games.

As a second year MScPT student, I was eager to volunteer at the Canadian Transplant Games, which ran August 8-13, 2016. For sixteen years, these games have celebrated transplant recipients’ newfound health, creating a strong network of support and friendship across the transplant community. The Games also increase awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation, and demonstrate that transplant recipients ranging from children as young as four to adults aged 80+ can lead an active lifestyle.

Volunteers at the transplant games standing in a gymnasium

At Badminton and Pickleball. From left: Gillian Young, Dr. Sunita Mathur, Aindrea McHugh and Larissa Tutert.

 

Volunteering my physical therapy abilities at this event allowed me to learn firsthand how the Games have helped the recovery of participants, by inspiring them to be active post-transplant. I was taken aback and impressed by how tight-knit the Games community is; this organization has provided motivation and support for not just the transplant recipients, but also their families and organ donors. The sense of comradery and enthusiasm was infectious in the athletic centers.

Athletes travelled from all across Canada, with some even travelling from the United States, to compete with other athletes in a variety of events across Toronto including badminton, pickleball, bowling, tennis, track and field and cycling. Participants came from a wide variety of athletic backgrounds; some played their sport competitively, some played their sport recreationally, and some even tried a new sport for the first time! The love of sport brought this community together to enjoy being active in friendly competition.

My peers Larissa Tutert, Aindrea McHugh, Joelle Small and I also had the opportunity to work with our professor Dr. Sunita Mathur, who educated us about transplant surgery recovery. She emphasized how the role of exercise and physical therapy is evolving to be an integral part of the recovery process.

As founding members of CAN-RESTORE, a national network which aims to promote active living after transplantation, Prof. Mathur, along with her colleague Dr. Tania Janaudis-Ferreira from McGill University, held an information booth at the Games Expo on the Saturday. They provided information on physical activity as well as fitness tests for the athletes.

Sunita Mathur and Tania Janaudis-Ferreira at their information booth for CAN-RESTORE.

Sunita Mathur and Tania Janaudis-Ferreira at their information booth for CAN-RESTORE.

One of our MScPT lecturers, Lisa Wickerson, was also an active volunteer at the Games. She stressed the importance of raising societal awareness around organ donation, and how great it was to see transplant recipients commit to a physically active lifestyle, and strive to extend functional potential beyond traditional expectations.

The most memorable moment of the Games for me was witnessing an athlete win a medal for her performance in badminton. This athlete received her heart transplant over fifteen years ago.

The average life expectancy of a heart transplant recipient is only five to ten years.

Seeing this woman not only alive and healthy, but thriving in her sport was inspiring.

It was a privilege to be part of the Canadian Transplant Games, not only as a volunteer, but also as a student, learning first-hand about the transplant community and support network.

Gillian Young

 

To learn more about the transplant community, visit:

Canadian Transplant Association

Canadian National Transplant Research Program