Unyts hosted a reception on Tuesday, July 8 for members of the local team heading to the Transplant Games of America. The games will take place July 11-15 in Houston, Texas.
The Transplant Games of America is a multi-sport festival event for individuals who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries. Competition events are open to living donors, organ transplant recipients, bone marrow recipients, and a limited number of corneal and tissue transplant recipients. More than an athletic event, the Transplant Games of America highlight the critical importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation, while celebrating the lives of organ donors and recipients.
Kidney transplant recipient Barbara Breckenridge is leading the local team. “The games are held every two years, and the purpose of these games is to show the importance of organ donation and transplantation,” Barb said. “It brings awareness and also shows how transplantation saves lives and changes lives. Most people here – myself included – were sick for a very long time. When we finally got transplanted, our lives were changed forever. We’re doing things we thought we would never do. We’re going places we thought we would never go.”
Barb received her lifesaving organ transplant at ECMC in 1999. She serves as community relations director for the Northeast Kidney Foundation of Greater Buffalo. Barb has participated in many U.S. and World Transplant games, and has won over 25 medals in track and field events.
The team of 11 Western New York residents includes five athletes as well as supporters, living donors and donor family members. “I’m sure most of the people here weren’t athletes, but they hold these games to bring awareness, so everybody goes. And once you go, you’re hooked,” Barb said. “You meet so many people. These games have babies, teenagers, middle-agers, older people, everybody. It’s all kinds of transplants – kidneys, livers, lungs, hearts, whatever can be transplanted, and we have all of these people there in one area.”
Local team members plan to join in events including the 5K, bowling, ping pong, and track and field events.
Barb concluded, “There are so many people waiting for transplants, and there’s not enough organs to go around. This brings the awareness of the need for [donation] and shows the people what happens when you do donate to someone, how you create a miracle for another human being.”