Thursday, August 07, 2008

Canadian Transplant games honor gift of life

Athlete Sebastien Larochelle of Team Quebec raises his arms as he marches into the Canadian Transplant Games with teammates at the University of Windsor Wednesday night. Events including cycling, tennis, swimming, golf, slo-pitch softball and bowling will be held at various location in Windsor for more than 350 transplant recipients from across Canada and the U.S.
Photograph by : Nick Brancaccio, The Windsor Star

By Danielle Wong, The Windsor Star:

Sylvie Gauthier was born in September, but she says her birthday is Aug. 16.

On that day six years ago, the Belleville resident received a double-lung transplant after suffering from Alpha-1 lung disease, a hereditary condition that is essentially genetic emphysema, since her 30s.

After the surgery, everything was like starting over -- even walking, Gauthier said. "Everything was new," she said. "Like a newborn." (I met Sylvie at Toronto General Hospital when we were both lung transplant patients. Before her transplant she was frail and scared. Her transformation to a "new person" was absolutely amazing. Merv.)

Now 46, Gauthier was sitting in the St. Denis Centre at the University of Windsor for the opening ceremonies of the Canadian Transplant Games Tuesday night.

Gauthier will be competing in lawn bowling. "Someone gave you life. You owe that much to keep fit," she said.

The games, launched by the Canadian Transplant Association on Tuesday and go until Friday, will see transplant recipients compete in Olympic-style sporting competitions to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation.

This is the fourth year the games are being held and the first year they are being hosted in Ontario.

This year, there are about 138 athletes and more than 350 donor families and supporters from across Canada and the United States, Games chair Niva Segatto said Tuesday.

The events will definitely be good for Windsor, as it brings out-of-town business to hotels and restaurants, Segatto said.

But the expected boost for Windsor's economy may not be as significant as hoped, as the games are seeing 30 fewer athletes than the last Canadian Transplant Games in 2006.

"It's because of the high gas prices," Segatto said. "Many (transplant recipients) are on disability leave and ... really got to watch what they spend on."

Many of these people are living on 50 per cent of their normal wages, so the high cost of travel might be too much for some this year, she said, adding that it can cost up to $5,000 to fly a family of four from far-away locations, and then there's the $199 registration fee and living expenses.

The general manager for Rose Bowl Lanes, which was the venue for the 10-Pin Bowling event Tuesday afternoon, said he saw the same issue.

"We were disappointed with the numbers," Doug Clarke said. "There was supposed to be 150 bowlers but there were only about 50."

Like Segatto, Clarke said he thinks it is because of pricey travelling expenses.

Several other general managers from Windsor's downtown restaurants also said they had not yet seen a significant rise in business due to the games.

However, Windsor is fitting as a host city because of its active transplant recipient community, said Frank Markel, CEO and president of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, an Ontario agency that promotes organ and tissue transplants.

This week, he said, will bring a greater awareness to organ and tissue donations.

After the 2005 World Transplant Games in London, Ont., Markel said, there has been a steady increase of organ donors.

Markel said donations have been rising, from 148 in 2005, to 200 in 2007.

"It proves that this awareness increases donations," he said.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

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