We’ve recently come back from the World Transplant Games, in Malaga Spain. It is a bi-annual competition where transplant patients from around the word gather and compete in athletic events. This year, over 1500 competitors came from over 50 countries. Some teams had over 300 participants, some teams only had three participants. All of them came to make connections and create community.
It used to be that people would identify themselves solely by the place where they were born, and while that is still true, people also identify themselves by who they are and what they’ve done, and they look for like minded people who share their experiences. But what happens when you have a rather rare experience, like getting a solid organ transplant at a young age? Wendy knows very few kids who have shared her experience, and she sometimes feels like a party of one. It’s been important to Michael and Me to help her find her community.
The World Transplant Games are a great way for her to meet people from around the world who are just like her.
She competed in swim and track events. During those events, she met girls her age who also had organ transplants, but who were from Italy, Britain, Hungary, or Australia. She and they would introduce themselves and gather before competitions, and then when it was time to compete, they would. Then they would gather back together and giggle and exchange addresses. All these girls, who were once gravely ill, who take medications multiple times a day, from all over the world, sharing this experience at the age of thirteen.
I don’t know what you were doing at the age of thirteen, but I was wondering if my mom could bring me to the Mall to meet my friends. I was not hanging out with kids from around the world who had organ transplants, and then competing my heart out when it was time.
Across the board, this group of girls broke world records in swim and track. They are determined, they are fast.
Most of all, they are both defined by their transplants and transcend the commonly held belief that they are “sick kids”. They are not.
They are warriors.
Then there is the group of men and women that Wendy met through Team USA. We had over 150 competitors from all over the country. They ranged in age from just younger than Wendy to members in their seventies. They help to show her that yes, life has its ups and downs, but that you keep going. I think (as a mom) that it’s super important for kids to get positive messages from adults who aren’t me, because at some point our kids turn our voices off. So when Wendy was a part of the 4 x 100 relay race with women who were kidney, lung, and heart transplant patients, who taught her how to receive the baton, who showed her where to line, up, and who were her loudest cheering section while she ran, well those other women were real role models for her, and I am forever grateful to them. They probably didn’t even know they had done anything.
In the coming days, I will be writing another post about Wendy and her individual journey at these games. I’m super proud of her, and of her journey. But this blog post had to come first. This is a community worth celebrating, people who truly are living their best lives since they’ve been given a second chance. Competitors who radiate gratitude at the ability to feel good and come together to compete. A community that supports each other, celebrates each other, claps for the person who comes in dead last as much (if not more) as the person who wins. Because, and I say this without hyperbole, they have all won just by being there.
Wendy is lucky to be a part of this amazing community.
I am grateful to witness it.