WINDSOR, Ont. — Cam Garner's eyesight may be failing him due to complications of diabetes. But he has no trouble visualizing how the positive influence of successful and healthy fellow transplant recipients will improve his quality of life.
Garner received a new kidney on May 4 after three-and-a-half years on dialysis.
"When you're living on dialysis, you learn to live with that," he said. "This is a whole new experience. It's tough, but it's an important thing for people to know that no matter how tough it is, it's worth it."
Garner, honorary chairman of this week's Canadian Transplant Games, is welcoming more than 400 athletes to his hometown of Windsor, Ont., for the event.
This is just the fourth Canadian competition - which takes place every two years - and the first to be held in Ontario.
While sport is the main focus, the Games also serve to raise public awareness of the need for organ donations.
"With my new kidney, I can pee through a Cheerio at ten yards," Garner joked.
The athletes - all transplant recipients - range in age from five to 76. Starting Tuesday, they'll compete in a variety of sports including swimming, cycling and track and field.
Garner said he's been inspired by these athletes.
"Imagine what those people, the athletes, have gone through - to be so ill that they would never think that they would ever get on a bicycle again," he said. "And yet, here they are competing in a bike race. It's a phenomenal thing."
Windsor police Senior Const. Robert James will be watching the events closely. He's currently waiting for a liver transplant after being diagnosed last year with an ailment called primary sclerosis cholangitis.
"It gives people like me hope that once this is over and done with, the operation and recovery period, you can go back to a normal life," James said.
He also expressed support for a proposal by Ontario's NDP to have everyone in Ontario considered automatic organ donors upon their death unless they specifically opt out ahead of time.
"From my own point of view, you would not have to get as sick as you get before you get that transplant," he said.
However, Dennis Segatto, a three-time kidney recipient, understands why it's a difficult issue for many people.
"It's up to the individual," he said. "I don't think anybody should be forced to (donate). That's why we call it the gift of life."
Segatto received his first transplant in 1979 and competed in the first Kidney Transplant Olympics in New York City one year later. He also competed at the most recent Canadian Transplant Games, in 2006 in Edmonton.
Garner won't be competing in this competition but is making plans for the future.
"I'm going to go ice skating this winter," he said. "Even if it's one trip around the rink, I'm going to do it."
Competition begins Tuesday morning and wraps up Aug. 8.
More info: Canadian Transplant Games
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