Each year, a team of Harefield Athletes attends the British Transplant Games to compete for medals and to celebrate their second chance at life. This Organ Donation Week we are sharing stories from two of our Harefield Athletes. Here is Lindsay’s story.

Being a disabled athlete before transplant, I had been told about the Transplant Games during one of my first appointments at Harefield. I set my mind, and hopefully my new lungs, on the thought of competing from then on.

My transplant came on January 27, 2019 and I was very, very poorly. After four months in hospital I went home; very weak, very thin but alive! I couldn’t wear boots as I had no strength to lift my feet if I did. I went to see a friend who is a personal trainer and started by lifting very light weights to try to develop my muscles. Having been in a coma for several weeks my muscles had wasted away. This was hard work for me, but I persevered. In time I was deadlifting weights heavier than my own body weight. I started cycling on an indoor bike to develop some cardio strength. After some time, I was able to kayak and cycle outdoors too.

Sadly in 2020 I suffered lung failure as the result of a rare reaction to a medicine. Lockdown was upon us and so there were no Transplant Games. This made my 9 months in Harefield awaiting another set of lungs a bit easier, at least I wasn’t missing out on anything.

New lungs came in October 2020 but sadly after four hours in theatre they were not put in. I was stitched up and sent back to the ward. I continued to exercise on oxygen whilst in my room. Christmas was fast approaching and following some up to date scans I was told that I could go home! I was doing way better than expected. I got home and immediately set out to get fit again. This time I bought an electric mountain bike. It became my lifeline. 

In 2021 I contracted Covid-19 and became very unwell. From then on, I required oxygen to exercise. This was a huge blow but not something I was unfamiliar with. 

I started training in earnest for the Transplant Games in Leeds 2022. This was gruelling and hard on my body, but I trained five days a week for eight months solid even with my IV drips attached. I refused to give in. 

The games arrived and I competed in the 10 km cycle race on a regular road bike, 5km time trial also on a regular road bike, the 100 m sprint, the 4x100 m relay, the 5k donor run and the ball throw. I did most of these with oxygen on my back. The exception being the 100m runs where I held my breath and collapsed over the lines at the end to be met by my son and fellow teammate who reattached my oxygen.

Teamwork was key throughout the games. Harefield may have had a small team but we worked hard and worked with one another. Our team manager, Caroline Rutherford, was superb. 

I was grateful to take home a couple of medals for my efforts. Without my donor, and the generosity of his family, I could never had done any of this. My children would not have seen their mum run like the wind. They would not have experienced the joy and euphoria of gratitude that a transplant brings. They would not have had this time with their Mum. I’m forever grateful.  

Harefield Hospital is one of the largest and most experienced centres in the world for heart and lung transplants. Donate today to support their work and help to give more patients like Lindsay a second chance at life.

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