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Transplant athletes ready for world games

Wednesday, 10th July, 2019 5:06pm

The largest ever Irish team will head to Newcastle next month to compete in the World Transplant Games 2019.

Ranging in age from 16 to 81, this year’s Irish team is made up of 29 men and 10 women who, between them, have had one heart, one lung, five liver, one bone marrow and 31 kidney transplants.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, member of the Irish team Pat O’Sullivan, said: “It's a very heavy week. People think we're going out for a week's holidays. You're up for breakfast at six, the bus leaves at 7.30, and then you're not back until 8 or 9 that night. I was so tired last time I fell asleep eating my dinner.”

Pat, who was an avid football and rugby player before falling ill, was diagnosed with Focal Glomerular Sclerosis (FGS) in 2002, and had a kidney transplant in 2015.

“Some people think when you're transplanted then that's it, you're cured. None of us get a guaranteed receipt when we walk out the door of Beaumont hospital,” he said.

The Mallow native (54), hopes to compete in the 100 and 200 metre sprints, long jump and golf competitions this year. He also competed in the World Transplant Games 2017 in Malaga.

He said: “It's like something you've never been at before. You're meeting people from all over the world and hearing stories and what people have gone through. Listening to all those stories, I stood on the first tee box in Malaga on the first morning of the golf and looked up into the heavens and thanked my donor for me being there. It can be very emotional.”

Another member of Team Ireland and also from Mallow, is Mick O’Shea (40) who had a heart transplant in 2017 after contracting a virus.

“I was fit and healthy and I decided to go for a run one day and basically I couldn't physically do anything. I thought I had the flu. By the end of that weekend I was in hospital. They tried everything to rescue my heart but the transplant was the only way to get home.”

Mick will compete in the 10k time trial cycle, the 30k road race cycle, the 100 metre sprint and ball throw in what will be his first ever transplant sports event.

“The main thing is going over and meeting other people in similar situations. I've been to other events with people with transplants and it's very inspiring,” said Mick.

“In this situation you have to be very positive. It's not what I lost, it's what I got back. If you're negative it's very hard to recover from any illness or any part of life,” he concluded.

The 2019 World Transplant Games will take place in Gateshead, Newcastle in the UK from 17-24 August.

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