I had the distinct pleasure of attending The World Transplant Games in Australia this summer. I travelled with qmediasolutions to film a documentary on Team SickKids at the Games. We got great footage and we returned with greater insight into the challenges and triumphs of paediatric organ transplantation.
The Games officially ended at the closing ceremonies on Saturday, August 29. All of the athletes, their supporters and the team managers attended the farewell gala event on Saturday night. It was great to see Team SickKids and their parents and siblings dressed up ready to party.
Woven throughout the days of togetherness were moments when organ donor families from Australia presented medals to athletes and engaged in lengthy conversations together. Each story is unique and each story is powerful.
While everyone of course cheered on the athletes on their team, there was so much else happening. I was able to watch bonds begin to develop between adult athletes and the Canadian Juniors. Kids from smaller communities who had rarely ever met another person with a transplant learned that they are not alone. Parents met adult athletes and came away with inspiration, hope and motivation.
Although the Games are designed as an athletic competition the real experience is far more profound than demonstrations of athletic prowess. In fact, the games are an opportunity to celebrate perseverance, love of family, appreciate medical knowledge around transplantation, promote research and say thank you to donor families. The exciting moments of athletic excellence, with much of the competition at an elite level, were the bonus. The real thrill was to see how far our kids have come thanks to the expertise of the SickKids Transplant Centre.
It was a privilege to share this time with Team SickKids. I really look forward to sharing the completed documentary with everyone.
Dawn Oldnall, 18, travelled from the small Ontario community of Fenelon Falls to compete in the 2009 World Transplant Games in Australia. Dawn, who has had a double lung transplant, is competing in tennis, volleyball and running.
Dawn is keeping a dairy about her time at the games. Here’s her latest entry.
Sunday, August 23
I couldn't believe it! Last night was the Opening Ceremony, 45 countries, over 1,000 competitors and a beautiful room!!! During the Ceremony, I was looking after two little kids; I volunteered of course; and had to run after them a few times; not as bad as it sounds; all I missed were a few speeches and some shows. It started with an amazing dance and amazing singing ability! We got to hear the song that was especially written for the Transplant Games entitled ‘Our Victory’ by Tania Doko. It was absolutely AMAZING! After some speeches, we had some Opera singing and normal singing, Highland Dancing and an amazing Youth Choir.
Today, my personally dream came true! I played on the Canadian Volleyball Team!! Although we were unable to hold onto our defending title, we played well enough to take 6th place out of 9; for a team that had never played together, we did well!
So far, in two days of competition; Team Canada has 3 gold medals, 2 silver medals and 2 bronze!!!! Don’t forget to keep rooting for us back home!!!
Also, tonight I had my ankle all taped up, someone told me to run in sandals, on hard concrete, and well, my ankles aren’t nearly as strong as they use to be…the right one is sprained.
We had lots of fun today, and I’ll let you know how Tennis goes tomorrow!!!
To read more from Dawn, visit Dawn’s Diary on the World Transplant Games page on the SickKids website. You can check out the current medal count there too!
View the latest photos added to our Flickr account and watch Team SickKids in action below:
If you cannot see the video player above, or to watch the video on YouTube please click here.
It is day three of the World Transplant Games in Australia and Team SickKids already has so much to cheer about. Canada won its first medal on Sunday and more on Monday.
Here’s a day-by-day updated from the Foundation’s Lisa Charendoff, who is with the young athletes in Australia:
Saturday, August 22: Team SickKids is staying in condos right across the street from a gorgeous beach with beautiful soft sand. The team’s physiotherapists, Robin and Vanessa, led the athletes in an early morning stretch on the beach with the ocean in the background. Later in the afternoon, all of Team Canada (adults and kids) met and shared their names, their transplant and their hometown.
There were two exciting things to celebrate after the introductions: An adult team member proposed to his girlfriend on the beach in the morning (she accepted) and one of the Team Canada athletes, Dylan, celebrated his birthday with delicious birthday cake.
Sunday, August 23: Morning began early. We cheered on several Canadian adult athletes in the 3k road race and Canada won its first silver medal!
Following the road race, 3,000 people participated in a walk along the beach entitled “Start the Conversation,” pushing giant beach balls. The objective was for transplant recipients, donor families and local citizens to walk and talk about the importance of organ donation. The weather couldn’t have been better. It was an awe-inspiring sight to see so many people talking about organ donation.
Sunday afternoon, Team SickKids put Canadian flag tattoos and other Canadian symbols on their hands, necks and faces in preparation for the opening ceremonies. What a thrilling moment it was to see the Canadian team march in. Canada has the third largest team of all 49 countries participating, behind Australia and the United Kingdom.
Monday, August 24: Very exciting news today. Team SickKids won several medals in bowling. Go team! The Canadian volleyball team, including Dawn Oldnall and Katie Sutherland from SickKids, played six close games and wound up in sixth place overall.
Listening to the stories of the SickKids families, hearing their gratitude to their donor families and being surrounded by so many people who have received transplants is a life-changing experience.
To see more photos, please visit our Flickr account. If you’d like to send Team SickKids a message or view the medal count, click here.