Transplant Athletes Go for the Gold

While athletes around the world prep for the Sochi Winter Olympics Games, there is group of contenders training for a new kind of Olympic-style competition: The Transplant Games of America ®. This biennial event recognizes teams of transplant recipients and organ donors from across the nation. They will compete in a variety of sporting and non-sport events to demonstrate how their lives have been changed through the gift of organ, eye, and tissue donation.

This year, the games will take place on July 12 – 15, 2014 in Houston, Texas. 

With the help of the Ochsner Multi-Organ Transplant Institute, Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA), and Legacy Foundation, Team Louisiana was created, consisting of 20 post-transplant recipients, living donors, and donor families from across the state and surrounding areas. Led by co-managers and Ochsner employees, Kim Black and Debi Dumas-Hicks, the team will compete to win the most medals.

Two recipients from Ochsner, Chase Cunningham, 38, and Tyrone Cooper, 55, are passionate about promoting the life-changing impact organ donation has had on their lives as well as others.

When a lifelong battle with type 1 diabetes caused her kidneys to fail, Chase was placed on the kidney transplant wait list. In 2012, Chase underwent a successful kidney-pancreas transplant. The surgery gave her a new lease on life allowing her to run a 5K race eight months after her transplant and getting married one year later. Today, she’s training to compete in the swimming and 5K races at the Transplant Games.

She says that organ registration “is a way for that donor to live on and give people a second chance to laugh, love and especially, LIVE!”

Photo caption of Tyrone CooperFormer college baseball player and father of two, Tyrone was struggling for his life due to severe heart failure. On June 16, 2011, a miracle occurred and he received a new heart. Since his transplant, he and his wife, Laurie, have witnessed the birth of his grandson and he has returned to coaching and his bible studies group. Tyrone hopes to honor his donor family by participating in swimming, tennis, table tennis and possibly basketball at the Transplant Games.

“If you find any humbleness in your heart to change the world for someone suffering for the breath of life,” Tyrone says, “It’s the greatest gift of all -- life!”

Over 120,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant; 1,700 people are in Louisiana. Approximately 18 people die daily due to the shortage of organ donors.

Two ways to support organ donation:

  1. Register as an organ donor and tell family members of your wishes. Find more information and a link to register at www.donatelifela.org
  2. Cheer for your favorite team at the Transplant Games! To show your support, you can donate at www.transplantgamesofamerica.org.