Helen Wilson, 57 from Wokingham, is taking part in her fifth Westfield Health British Transplant Games this year after receiving two life-saving organ transplants. Helen tells us what it’s like to be at the games, how she trains and what you can expect for your first time.
“The Games aren’t for me, I can’t even sit up in bed.”
“When I was first told about the Westfield Health British Transplant Games, I couldn’t even sit up in bed. I’d had complications after my second transplant and had been in intensive care in an induced coma for nearly six weeks, so I had a lot of muscle wastage and had to learn how to walk again. Competing in the Games seemed like something I’d never be able to do, but I decided to go along as a spectator in 2014.
“One of the things that struck me the most was how many people were there at the Games. You’ve got little tots as young as five to people in their 90s doing all sorts of activities. As well as transplant recipients, there are live donors and people who belong to the donor family network – people who’ve had family members pass away and become donors.”
“Being with so many people who’ve been affected by organ donation is phenomenal – it’s like a family environment.”
“Everybody there has their own amazing stories and a lot of people find it useful to hear others’ experiences, knowing they aren’t the only person who has been affected by organ donation. At the opening ceremony, I got very emotional and had tears flowing down my face when I saw the donor families and listened to them talk about how proud they were to be attending the Games. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible and the positive energy was amazing – I was hooked and I instantly knew that I had to take part the 2015 Games.”
“I’d never run in my life before entering the Games.”
“I entered for ten pin bowling, archery, 100m and 200m, never having run in my life. I didn’t even know how far that distance was, so 12 weeks before the games I went to Bracknell Athletics Clubfor some advice and training. I ended up taking home the bronze medal for archery and getting my best time in the running events.
“I now do one track session a week with Bracknell Athletics Club and my husband and I have joined an archery club. Suddenly, we now have all these opportunities to do things we’ve never done before, and I’ve met some amazing people through those connections.
“To get through what we went through, you have to be mentally strong. As soon as my husband and I talk about it, it brings back all the emotions and it feels like it happened yesterday. Now, I’m physically the strongest that I’ve ever been.”
“For anyone who is thinking about going to their first games, my advice is absolutely do it.”
“You don’t have to go to the Games with the intention of winning, go to enjoy it and celebrate life. I tried a lot of new sports that I’d never done before, just to see how I got on. There is an element of competition for some, but it’s complete mixed abilities and everyone is there to celebrate the fact that we are still here.
“People ask me why I do it, and I say “because I can”. I’ve been really lucky, I’ve done quite well at the Games and have some lovely medals which I’m really proud of.”
“I can’t wait for the British and the World Games this year.”
“This year I’ll be doing archery, discus, shotput and javelin for the British Games, and I’m so proud to have been selected to for Team GB at the World Transplant Games where I’ll also be doing ball throw. It’s an amazing privilege to wear Team GB clothing and I’m so happy to be representing my country at the World Transplant Games – it’s their biggest team ever with 350 people.
“I’d love try and retain my titles at the Westfield Health British Transplant Games this year, and if I can bring one medal back from the World Transplant Games, I’ll be over the moon.”
“Having a transplant gives you another shot at life, my advice is make sure you grab it with both hands.”
“Before I was ill, my job was very important to me and I didn’t do too much outside of work. Now, although my job is still very important to me, I have very clear goals of what I want to achieve and why I want to achieve them. Going through something like this puts things into perspective and helps you understand what is worth worrying about and what isn’t.
“My advice is to celebrate life, be thankful for your second (or third) chance and never forget your donor family. I write to my donor family twice a year, and as hard as it is to find the words – find them. I’ve also visited the nurses who looked after me; to be able to go back and say “look at me now” is a real boost for them after the condition they’d seen me in.
“We’re very lucky that Westfield Health have been supporting the Games for as long as they have. It means an awful lot to be able to go and be with thousands of people who have been through similar experiences, have loads of fun and show everybody what is possible after being so ill.”
Find out more about the British Transplant Games and the World Transplant Games.
Join the Organ Donation Register.