Going for gold with the gift of life at the 2023 World Transplant Games

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Local World Transplant Games participants Heather Armstrong, Gerry Hilder and Kate Clark.

Local World Transplant Games participants Heather Armstrong, Gerry Hilder and Kate Clark.

Four excited but nervous Sunshine Coast locals are preparing to fly west to the 2023 World Transplant Games in Perth this week to help raise awareness around the importance and benefits of organ donation.

Gerry Hilder, Kate Clark, Heather Armstrong, and Steve Griffin have received a combined 82 years of extra life thanks to their generous donors.

The World Transplant Games is an opportunity to bring the transplant community together to honour donors and show what can be achieved health and fitness wise post-transplant.

Gerry Hilder, who received a kidney 27 years ago, is competing in the 5km run, 5km walk, 1500m run, 400m freestyle swim and petanque.

“I don’t look at it so much as a win, to me it’s a finish and if I’ve finished, I’m happy,” he said.

“You want to pay back, because you got a gift and that’s something pretty special and without that I wouldn’t be here - I wouldn’t have lived 27 years on dialysis.”

Heather Armstrong is competing for the first time in the cycling events, after she received the call for a new kidney in 2021.

“I was actually out on a ride, and I was like oh my gosh I have to get home and pack, so it was very exciting,” she said.

“When I was on dialysis I heard them talking about the transplant games and I thought that could be my goal, that’s what I’m going to focus on. It’s my way of saying thank you so the donor families can see us celebrating life and see what they’ve done for us.”

Kate Clark – who received a liver 25 years ago - is going to Perth to compete in her fourth World Transplant Games in a range of running and walking events.

She won five gold and two silver at the Gold Coast games in 2009 and was named the most outstanding athlete of the games.

“I actually retired after those games but thought I would compete again now that it’s back in Australia,” she said.

“People like myself and Gerry, we like to call ourselves the legacy as we have competed before. It’s showcasing what transplantation can do – the gift of life and the celebration of life that recipients have.”

Steve Griffin, who received 1/3 of an adult liver when he was a child 28 years ago, is returning to the games and competing in tennis and badminton.

“I decided to compete again to renew previous friendships made, I enjoy the comradery amongst competitors and most importantly to spread the donation message. I haven’t been to a World Games for 12 years but have been to many Australian Games in the past decade,” he said.

“I continue to live life to the fullest and it is always nice to represent my donor.”

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service DonateLife CoordinatorKirsty Caley said having such a big event like this in Australia is a great way to shine a spotlight on organ donation.

“It’s certainly inspiring to see people who have had to overcome such health adversity, to now be going out and doing things that even people who have never really had any health issues would struggle to do,” she said.

“Every day there are at least 1,800 Australians waiting for a second chance at life, just like these wonderful recipients have received.

“The best way to help them is to register as an organ and tissue donor and to start the conversation about donation with your family and friends.”

To register, visit donatelife.gov.au.