Sunday, August 13, 2006

Report from the transplant games
By Amy Holdorf

Ed. note - Amy is a kidney transplant recipient who received a kidney from her mother in 1994. Since then she has developed into quite an athlete and her flair for writing shows in this report on her experience at the games.

Thursday, August 10, 2006
I’ve been meaning to send out a daily update of my experiences at this year’s Canadian Transplant Games here in Edmonton, Alberta, but a variety of things have thwarted me. Such as gastroenteritis. Within 16 hours of my arrival in Edmonton, I was in the University of Alberta Hospital ER.

We are staying in the dorms on campus. At 5:00 a.m. on Monday I woke up with massive stomach pain, and after three hours of intestinal unpleasantness I called the front desk to see if someone could take me to the ER. The nice undergrad working the front desk called the campus police who subsequently gave me an escort to the hospital. Fortunately, the U of A Hospital is only two blocks away. The triage nurse got me in right away and 26 hours, a little morphine, a lot of Gravol, two X-rays, and 6 liters of IV fluids, I was back at the dorms more or less in one piece (kidney is fine, guts are queasy).

The staff at the U of A Hospital was fantastic, not to mention good looking! I felt like I was on the set of the TV show ER with all of the young, attractive doctors and nurses (male and female). Although, it is difficult to try to flirt when you are puking and bleeding on them. My buddies Dave and Lauren came by to visit me on a number of occasions, once at 1:30 a.m. as they finished their last airport run of the night. While they were there a doctor came to check on me, only he had just come in from an off-site emergency and was dressed in jeans, flip-flops, and a Dave Mathews Band T-shirt. Dave and Lauren thought he was a friend of mine! I was released on Tuesday morning after I kept my Cheerios down, and my buddy Alistair Stark (liver from his son Stuart) took me back to the dorms.

The good part of my sickness is that I got out of my CTA executive committee meetings! In fact, I was jokingly accused of “faking” my illness to get out of a day of boring meetings.

The opening ceremonies commenced Wed. morning at the Edmonton City Hall foyer. The building is a gorgeous modern facility. All of the athletes and donors (180 or so) sat on the main level while the spectators stood above on the walkway looking down. The ceremony was short and sweet with brief welcomes by the Mayor and others, and a reading of the athlete’s oath by 7 year old Jack from British Columbia, who had a heart transplant at age 7 weeks, and the “most experienced” athlete, Jennifer, 73, from Edmonton. Jack’s mom was more nervous than he was! The event was covered by four different TV stations, including both French and English CBC.

After the ceremony buses took the athletes to their various events. I went to the 3K run not sure if I was going to drop out or just walk the course. I was feeling really good – about 80%. The road race was in lovely Rundle Park – reminded me a bit of Forrest Park in St. Louis. The weather was perfect – 60 degrees (15C) with a few clouds. The men started with the 5K run, and the women started the 3K shortly afterwards. I decided to walk to course – what the heck, it’s a nice day and I feel good. At the line up of the race all of the women formed a big line and had a giant hug and all thought of our donors – it was my favorite moment of the day (see photo,). I'm number 3148. I ran at the beginning and the end just to look good. I came in fourth out of five in my age group. I guess I walk fast!

My buddy Mark Black, a double lung/heart recipient from Moncton, New Brunswick, discovered by his wrist odometer that the men’s 5K course was actually 5.96K (Mark is very precise). The men who had trained for a 5K were suffering. Suckers! Mark is a marathon runner and came in 3rd overall and 1st in his age group. And, due to congenital problems which lead to his transplant, he is only about 4’8” tall. Yet, he is still beating the pants off of men who are 6 feet tall! He regularly teaches running classes at the Running Room.

The Canadian Games differ from the US games in a lot of ways, but one of the big ones is that it is very small, intimate, and social. Given that Canada has 10% of the population of the US, you can understand why. There are about 160 athletes in attendance and maybe 300 people total. The evenings are reserved for social events. Wed. evening was the opening party at Fort Edmonton Park, an attraction celebrating the development of northern Canada from 1885-1920. We got a ride on steam train and walked around the grounds until it started to rain. We had dinner in the 1920s airplane hangar (see photo), followed by dancing with a live band. I was still pooped from my ER shenanigans, so I called it an early night.

The Volleyball tournament took place on Thursday morning at the Commonwealth Fitness Centre attached to Commonwealth Stadium where the Edmonton Eskimos CFL team plays. We made up teams on the fly and didn’t quite have enough athletes to fill out four teams, so random spectators and accompanying people joined the fun. I was on a team of jokers from all over Canada – Scott and Audrey from British Columbia, Ted a big goof ball from Saskatchewan, Matt one of the four other Americans at the games, and Marise Black (new bride of Mark Black the runner from above). We called ourselves “The Blisters.” We were terrible, but had a ton of fun (see photo). We played round robin with the rest of the teams and lost all of our sets. No one on any of the teams was taking it very seriously and it was tons of fun. And the Tim Horton’s lady showed up with coffee and donuts! We had some time to kill at the end, so we played kidney recipients vs. the volunteers – great fun.

The golf tournament took place today as well. Brent Dueck from Winnipeg, who received a kidney from his father, shot a 79 (he has an 8 handicap). And he got to golf with his dad! Also, many of you know Lance Tyszka a kidney recipient from Ontario. Lance was on his best behavior today since he was paired up with three nurses in his foursome and he didn’t want to make an ass out of himself in front of the ladies. He didn’t curse or throw his clubs or anything! A miracle for Lance! He shot a 95, his best of the year.

After volleyball I was wiped out and I took a BIG nap. As part of the Canadian Transplant Association executive committee I had to attend a reception to honor the monetary sponsors – mainly the drug company reps. It was great to meet everyone and schmooze with the drug company people.

Tonight the social event was a trip to the West Edmonton Mall – the largest mall in North America. My friend Christine Allard, a heart recipient from Quebec, said she is going to get the gold medal in shopping! I didn’t attend this social outing as I have to be up bright and early tomorrow. The swim meet starts at 8:00!

Its getting close to 11 pm so I better get to bed. Tomorrow is swimming and Dragon Boat racing! However, it’s going to be rainy and cold tomorrow (high of 54F, 12C). Also, tomorrow the Edmonton Eskimos have a game against the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, and the Eskimos team has generously donated 100 FREE tickets to the CTA! How cool is that?
Good night!

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