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Six days. More than ten sporting events. Approximately one hundred athletes from across Canada.
The competition is fierce, but the Canadian Transplant Games aren't your average athletic showcase.
Every two years, the Canadian Transplant Association (CTA) invites all organ transplant recipients from across the nation to compete in the Games. From lawn bowling to the five-kilometre race, organ recipient participants compete in an array of sports. Every organ recipient is welcome to participate – athleticism is not a mandatory requirement.
This summer, the CTA revealed Toronto will welcome the next Games in 2016.
"The Games in Toronto will show people what organ donation is, what it can do, and that it works," says Helen Farinha, a former Peter Munk Cardiac Centre patient and heart transplant recipient who helped bring the Transplant Games to Toronto.
Farinha participated in the most recent set of Games – in Moncton, N.B. She went in hoping for one medal but won four: two gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
"I surprised myself," she says. "I never would have been able to do this without my heart transplant."
TGH and PMCC Support the Games
According to Farinha, she was one of three PMCC heart transplant recipients to participate in the 2014 Transplant Games. In total, 24 athletes from team Ontario had received their organ transplants at Toronto General Hospital, says the CTA.
"The Transplant Games are an amazing opportunity for transplant recipients to meet other recipients, and to compete in a friendly but truly highly competitive and real world environment," says Dr. Heather Ross, Director of the Ted Rogers Centre of Excellence in Heart Function, PMCC and Medical Director of the Cardiac Transplant Program at TGH.
From encouraging patients to participate to helping shape the programming, Dr. Ross has been an avid supporter of the Canadian Transplant Games.
"It's a chance to show that anything is possible after transplant," she explains.
Organ Donation Facts
Right now in Ontario, there are over 1,500 people waiting for organ transplants – but fewer than 25 per cent of eligible Ontarians have registered to be organ donors, the Trillium Gift of Life Network reports.
"A lot of people just don't know -- they need to see firsthand organ donation in action," says Farinha.
The 2016 Transplant Games will hopefully accomplish that goal.
"Right now, Toronto has one of the lowest registration rates in the province (to be a donor)," Farinha says. "How better to showcase the power of organ donation than to host the Transplant Games?"
In Ontario, transplant recipients do not meet the donor families, so the Games offer an opportunity to display how their gift makes an impact.
"My donor and I won these medals together," Farinha says. "My donor is a partner in everything I do – I put my heart in everything I do to show my gratitude."
The CTA is currently on the lookout for sponsors, volunteers and athletes for the 2016 Transplant Games, which will run from August 8, 2016 to August 13, 2016 in Toronto.
A vigorous competition and a rewarding accomplishment await all those who participate, says Dr. Ross.
"It is a goal to train for, an achievement and a huge mark of success. It encourages recipients to live, adopt, and continue a healthy lifestyle that involves promoting heart healthy living and regular exercise," she says.
For more information on how you can participate in the Canadian Transplant Games, please visit: https://www.canadiantransplant.com/.
To register to be an organ donor, visit: