Thursday, August 19, 2010

Heart and double lung transplant recipient won seven medals at Canadian Transplant Games

Mark Black won seven medals at the Canadian Transplant Games in Quebec City.
Photo: Greg Agnew/Times & Transcript

By Mike Sandrson, Times & Transcript

Moncton, New Brunswick athlete, speaker and life coach Mark Black proves that there is always a second chance to do what you love.

Last week, Black added to his amazing story by competing in the 2010 Canadian Transplant Games in Quebec City. He brought home seven medals over the week-long event.

Black took gold in the 100-metre breaststroke and Petanque (variation of bocci), silver in the 50m breaststroke, 5,000m run and the 800m run and bronze in golf for both his gross and net scores.

The medal count is more remarkable when you consider that he wasn't supposed to live past his 25th birthday, let alone compete as an athlete nationally.

Black, now 32, was born with a life-threatening heart defect and had two open-heart surgeries before he turned one. After this, it seemed like he could handle the problems, and he could live a normal life.

"In May 2001, I wasn't feeling well and had lost some weight," he said. "I went in to see my family doctor and he was immediately very concerned. He had me transported by ambulance to Halifax where I was evaluated by the transplant team there.

"I ended up staying there for a month and finally was told by the head cardiologist that my only hope was a dangerous and risky heart and double-lung transplant."

At 23 years old, Black's heart was failing badly. He was told by doctors that he wouldn't make it to his 25th birthday. He opted for surgery, and was put on a waiting list for a new heart and lungs.

After waiting for almost a year, he finally got his wish and doctors in Toronto performed the operation.

Black fully recovered from the operation. He decided that he would live his new life to the fullest. That led to marathon-running. "There was a day about a week post-transplant when I decided that I wanted to run a marathon," he said.

"To me, running a marathon was the ultimate demonstration of health and fitness. Once I jogged on the treadmill for the first time in physio, I knew that my body was capable of things that it hadn't done in a very long time. That got me excited at the possibilities."

With his new lease on life, Black decided to tell others his story.

He figured his story could help motivate others to do great things.

Now, Black not only is an athlete, but he also speaks at functions "all across Canada - from St. John's to Vancouver - and some in the United States." He is also a life coach, guiding people to set their personal and professional goals and sticking with them.

Black's main purpose for speaking is to raise awareness of transplants.

"It's important the we talk with our families about organ donation so that if, God forbid, something happens to us, our families will know what we want to happen."

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