Living Donor Liver Transplant Foundation

Dave Attends the 2022 Transplant Games

As I described in my May 2022 post, the Transplant Life Foundation holds the Transplant Games of America every two years. The Games gather together thousands of transplant recipients, living donors, donor families, individuals on the waiting list, caregivers, transplant professionals, supporters and spectators for the world’s largest celebration of life. During this truly unique and inspiring week, 40 state teams and several international teams (i.e. Brazil, Australia, India), made up of transplant recipients and living donors, compete in twenty athletic and recreational competitions. In addition to these medaling events, there are over sixty special events held throughout the Games meant for all attendees to enjoy. These events not only serve as an opportunity for donor families, recipients, living donors and professionals to engage with one another and share stories, but it celebrates donors who gave the selfless gift of life.

This year, the Transplant Games were held in San Diego, California on July 29 – August 3. The Games included an opening ceremony parade, quilt pinning ceremony, a Paddle Out (where surfers go out into the ocean and join hands to form a circle to honor donors), a Donor Tribute program, a Quarter Century Club Dinner (for those celebrating 25 or more years post-transplant) and a farewell celebration. During the parade, state teams were cheered on by San Diego locals, family, friends and supporters. My husband, Dave, and his friend, Rick (a fellow liver transplant recipient), participated as members of Team Michigan. Transplant recipients, living donors, donor families and international athletes competed for gold, silver and bronze medals in individual and team/relay events. Athletes competed in three youth age categories and eight adult age categories. Athletes chose five of the following sports: 5K, Badminton, Ballroom Dancing, Bowling, Corn hole, Cycling, Darts, Golf, Lyrics for Life, Pickleball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Texas Hold-em, Trivia, and Track & Field. The youngest participant in this year’s Games was three year old Naim Davenport who participated in the Youth Olympiad. The oldest participant was 85 year old Phil Pressel. A member of Team SoCal since 2008, it was his fifth set of Transplant Games.

Dave competed in the 5K run, golf doubles (with Rick), cycling, darts and several track & field events. He returned home sporting nine medals and the honor of having broken three Transplant Games records. In his age group, 50-59, he placed first in the 400m, 800m and 1500m races. He also earned gold in the 5K run as well as doubles golf. His silver medals were in dart games 301 and Cricket while his bronze was in the softball throw which is similar to a javelin throw. It was a spirited but supportive competition. But what Dave loved most was connecting with other transplant recipients. As a long-distance runner, Dave was able to meet another runner who had inspired him during his transplant recovery: Steve Nugent of Virginia (pictured above with his wife and Dave). Like Dave, Steve had also suffered from the same autoimmune disease, PSC, that led to a liver transplant. After his transplant, he ran a marathon, competed in the Transplant Games and shared his story on social media. Little did he know that how much sharing his story had helped Dave recover!

Upon his return from San Diego, Dave visited his Henry Ford Health System transplant team to give them special pins from the Games, show them his medals and thank them for all of their support before, during and after his transplant. Detroit’s Fox2 news covered the story. Dave is currently working with the Henry Ford team to create a display case about the Transplant Games. It will be located on the hospital floor where transplant patients come for their medical visits. He hopes the display inspires new transplant patients, living donors and family members to consider attending the Games.

A location for the 2024 Games has not been selected yet but the Transplant Life Foundation is actively reviewing several very promising bids and expects to have a decision in the coming months.