This Organ Donation Week we are sharing stories from two of our Harefield Athletes who have gone on to achieve success at the Transplant Games, none of which would be possible without the gift of organ donation. Here is Peter’s story.

Growing up with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), my parents always encouraged me to play as much sport as possible. I quickly discovered a love of racket sports, particularly tennis and squash. I played a lot as a child and was relatively healthy at least in part because of this.

Unfortunately, soon after I turned 18, I left home to go to university and allowed CF to get on top of me. Trying to balance all the normal challenges of university life on top of CF was just too much and my health took a steep downturn.

I carried on through university and into the working world, still just about fit enough to play some sport, but over the next few years my health continued to decline to the point where that was impossible, and I eventually had to ‘retire’ from sports aged 25. From there, with no regular exercise to help clear out my lungs, the deterioration sped up a lot, to the point where I was placed on the transplant list about a year later. I was incredibly lucky to receive a transplant on my first call after just four months. I received my new lungs a couple of weeks before I turned 27.

The first couple of years after transplant were a constant battle against infection, but during that I worked really hard with the physios at my local hospital to get my body in some sort of shape to play sport again.

My muscles, that had been barely used for the past two years, were now going to be asked to sprint, change direction and lunge once again. My first few forays back onto courts tended to involve a lot of pain at best, cramps and injuries at worst.

I’d heard about the Transplant Games while on the waiting list for my transplant and made it a big goal to compete and hopefully win as many medals as I could. I was able to represent Harefield for the first time in Newport in 2019 and surprised myself by winning gold medals in both tennis and squash.

It was amazing to be part of Team Harefield for the first time. Although there were only a few of us, seeing so many people with heart and/or lung transplants competing with (and beating) the rest of the country was inspirational.

Only a couple of weeks after this, an infection turned up in my scar again. It was back to Harefield for more antibiotics and two surgeries. The first was to remove all the infected tissue, which included part of my sternum, and the second was to reconstruct my chest wall, including ‘butterflying’ my pectoral muscles to fold them back to cover my heart.

This led to another large period of rehab, to get my chest muscles working again. Finally, about six months later, I could describe myself as healthy, if not yet fully fit, just in time for a global pandemic to instigate lockdown and stop me from getting back on court again. I used that time productively, with an exercise bike and later a treadmill in my flat. My sister, after years of trying, finally persuaded me to give yoga a go via Facetime. Actually, the stretching and flexibility work was a bit of a revelation and by the time Covid-19 relented enough for me to feel safe down at the squash club, I was in much better shape. I was fit enough to play for hours and strong enough to withstand all the different impacts. Since then, I’ve not really looked back except for the odd minor injury.
I made it to the British Transplant Games in Leeds this year and repeated my results from Newport with two golds. I also entered my first

European Transplant Games in Oxford. This was an amazing experience. I had the chance to meet transplant patients from all over Europe, with so many different but very similar experiences, and it was incredible just to be a part of it. I was supported by other Harefield Athletes such as Janka, Caroline and Douglas (all on the committee) who all came to cheer me on, which felt amazing. Harefield is a great team!

I was incredibly proud and very lucky to win gold medals at the European Transplant Games in men’s singles and mixed doubles tennis, and a silver in the men’s doubles too. Unfortunately, three tournaments in three days proved to be quite a lot. The morning of the squash tournament I found myself with a very stiff groin, limping around my cousin’s house where I was staying, in no shape to play.

A couple of weeks later, I received an email saying I’d been selected to compete for GB at the World Transplant Games in Australia, something I’ve been dreaming of for about six years now. I’ve now got about six months to train, so lots of time on court, coaching, cardio, yoga and strengthening before April 2023. Of course, I’ll be keeping on top of my health in all the usual ways. A few people have even suggested healthy eating might improve my prospects. I’ll give it a go, although I’ve been saying that for years!

I can’t wait to get out there, not just for myself but . In particular, my parents, who’ve been there every step of the way with me. They even relocated from the Lake District to my home in Exeter to look after me before the transplant, and through numerous long hospital stays. I was really happy to be able to give them one of my European Gold Medals. My mum wore it all weekend when I visited, I’m sure next time I go home it’ll be on display somewhere! I hope that next summer I’ll be able to give them a medal of some colour to go with it from the World Transplant Games. It gives me more pleasure seeing how happy they are for me than I get myself.

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 Peter a second chance at life.


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