Organ recipients kick off Transplant Games with swimming

Jim Melwert
August 03, 2018 - 1:32 pm

Jim Melwert | KYW Newsradio

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SALT LAKE CITY (KYW Newsradio) — Competition got underway Friday in Salt Lake City for the 2018 Transplant Games of America, celebrating organ donation and raising awareness of the need for donors. 

The first action is in the pool with the 200-meter individual medley and the 500-meter freestyle. 

Swimming in the 500 freestyle is Amy Lucy from team Maryland.

"I’m a double lung recipient," Lucy said. "My transplant was 14 months ago. I have cystic fibrosis, which led to the end-stage lung failure."

Lucy is swimming, cycling, running and also competing in tennis and some other track-and-field events.

"And it’s amazing. It’s really, really exciting to be able to breathe and run and swim and cycle and do all the things I could never do," she said. "I’ve run three 5Ks. I’m doing a marathon relay. I’m doing the virtual triathlon here. I’m doing absolutely everything, and it’s phenomenal."

Not only is this her first Transplant Games, it’s the first time she and her husband were able to fly.

"We’ve never taken a honeymoon. This is our first trip," she said. "It’s literally a different life for us. I wrote to my donor family. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m so hopeful I will because I just want to thank them face-to-face, because they really gave me life that I never had."

One of the most emotional moments of the Transplant Games is the opening ceremonies in which donor families — families who had a loved one die and donate organs or tissue — enter the stadium. 

Many recipients never learn who gave them their organs, so they can never meet and thank their family. John Hughes is a four-time kidney recipient, his most recent in 2016. He said he only knows it was from a 42-year-old who died of a drug overdose.

"I had a lot of emotions," Hughes said. "I wanted to know does he have a family, does he have kids? It’s tough sometimes."

He says meeting and thanking donor families does help, and he hopes people hear the message about becoming an organ donor.

"Out of something so tragic, something beautiful can come," Hughes said. "And hopefully people realize in tragedy, life does go on."

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KYW Newsradio's Jim Melwert, a living kidney donor, is competing with Team Philadelphia.