When you’re facing a transplant, it’s easy to feel alone. You may not know any one that has had a transplant and you don’t know where to turn for support. The Transplant Life Foundation provides support to transplant recipients, living donors, donor families, individuals on the waiting list, caregivers, transplant professionals and supporters with knowledge, hope and connection. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Transplant Life Foundation was started by Bill Ryan in 2011 after his life was touched by transplant. After his daughter was in a tragic accident, he and his wife made the decision to donate her organs. My husband, Dave, had the opportunity to meet Bill in person and talk to him on the phone several times. Dave was impressed by Bill and all that he and his family have done to support the transplant community.
The Transplant Life Foundation has already made a big impact on our lives in two ways. It started in 2019 when we became TransplantNation subscribers. This publication is a bi-monthly 68-page magazine that works to connect and support the growing audience in the United States who are in the organ donation and transplantation world. It was the connection that we needed. Each time we receive it, we look forward to the interesting stories of everyday heroism and heartfelt sacrifice as well as articles on medical advances, healthy living, tributes and more. Each issue has left us feeling a sense of community and better informed. If you’d like to subscribe, click here. A one year subscription (6 issues) is $36. In March, Dave and Mark’s story was profiled. Our brother-in-law, Mark, donated his left lobe to Dave via a living donor liver transplant. He will forever be our angel on earth.
In addition to TransplantNation, the Transplant Life Foundation holds the Transplant Games of America. Every two years the Transplant Games gathers 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. At the Transplant Games, recipients are given the chance to show the world that having a transplant is a second chance at a full, productive, and inspiring life as well as display to their donor families what their gift means to them.
The Transplant Games honor the lasting legacy of donors who gave the ultimate gift of life, highlight the need for and importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation, celebrate the success of transplantation, and increase the national and state registry numbers. In 2022, the Transplant Games are being held in San Diego, California on July 29 – August 3. Through various campaigns and donation efforts the Transplant Life Foundation is able to provide travel assistance to those in need. The Games include an opening ceremony parade and farewell celebration. During the parade, state teams will march team by team cheered on by San Diego locals, family, friends and supporters. Dave and his friend, Rick (a fellow liver transplant recipient), are members of Team Michigan led by Marge Del Greco and Mike Roman.
Transplant recipients, living donors, donor families and international athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in individual and team/relay events. There are three divisions of competition in which men, women, and youth will compete against each other.
i. Division I: Solid Organ Transplant Recipients
ii. Division II: Living Donors, Corneal & Tissue Recipients, Bone Marrow Recipients
iii. Donor Families/Living Donor Families
Athletes compete in three youth age categories and eight adult age categories. Athletes may choose five of the following sports: 5K, Badminton, Ballroom Dancing, Bowling, Cornhole, Cycling, Darts, Golf, Lyrics for Life, Pickleball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Texas Hold-em, Trivia, and Track & Field. Dave is registered for the 5K run, golf doubles (with Rick), cycling, darts and several track & field events. Dave has started his training for the Games. Please watch for future posts about his progress as well as fun photos from the Games. If you’d like to learn more about the Games, please click here.