A team of eight young transplant patients from across the south are travelling to Scotland to compete in the British Transplant Games.
This year’s event, which begins tomorrow (Thursday) in North Lanarkshire, is expected to attract more than 750 athletes who will compete in a range of sporting events including track and field, fishing, badminton and volleyball over the course of four days.
The competitors, aged between eight and 15 years, have all received life-saving treatment at Southampton Children’s Hospital’s specialist nephrology unit, which treats young people with acute and chronic kidney disease and cares for around seven transplant patients a year before and after surgery.
They make up ‘Team Southampton’ and will be joined by parents, siblings and staff who will be among the 2,000-strong supporters set to take in the games, which are organised by charity Transplant Sport.
“We’re absolutely delighted to be entering a team to the BTG again this year,” said Sarah Grylls, clinical nurse specialist in paediatric nephrology at Southampton Children’s Hospital.
“It’s a fantastic event that brings young patients and families together to do something incredibly fun and rewarding through sport.”
Fiona Delement, healthcare play specialist, added: “The camaraderie between the competitors is awe-inspiring. Spending time away from hospital allows everyone to relax and make new friends with others who have been through similar experiences – you can’t place a value on that.
“We’re sure the team will achieve great things but they are already heroes in our eyes.”
The group will also use their participation as a platform to raise awareness of the NHS organ donor register – discussing the importance of sharing wishes with loved ones while also celebrating life and giving thanks to donor families and living donors.
Michael Hill, 15, from Southampton, was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2008 and started haemodialysis in 2011 as a result of kidney failure. He received a transplant in 2014 after his uncle, Philip Pomeroy, became a living donor.
He attended his first transplant games as a supporter in 2014 and has since competed every year, winning medals in table tennis, badminton and sports stacking.
“Michael now has the chance to be a normal teenager again,” said his mother Claire. “He used to spend three afternoons a week on dialysis which meant he missed out on school, activities and seeing friends.
“The care and treatment received by the children’s kidney service in Southampton has been absolutely amazing. If it wasn’t for our specialist unit we would have had to visit London every week.”
She added: “Attending the games has given Michael the chance to meet other transplant patients, young and old, as well as the opportunity to spend quality time with other children from the Southampton unit. They all get on so well and are a great support network for each other.”
It costs approximately £1,000 to send a child to the games and the team’s entry has been made possible through the support of Kidney Care UK and the fundraising efforts of family, friends and staff through Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity, which is part of Southampton Hospital Charity.
Richard Corden, director of Southampton Hospital Charity, said: “The importance of events like this for young transplant patients and their families cannot be underestimated and it is a cause we are truly delighted to support.
“As always, we couldn’t make it happen without the efforts of our fundraisers and supporters so thank you very much to everyone involved and we hope to give young patients the opportunity to participate in this positive experience for many years to come.”
Paddy Tabor, chief executive of Kidney Care UK, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be able to provide support once again to the team from Southampton Children’s Hospital.
“We’ll be there to cheer the whole team on, but it doesn’t matter how well they do as they are all winners as far as we are concerned – these children show the incredible transformational impact that organ donation and transplantation can have on your life.”