TWO inspiring local men, Graham McCormick from Newtownstewart and John Hegarty from the Glebe, are all set to take part in the British Transplant Games.
They are hoping that their remarkable courage in bouncing back from major illness will encourage more organ donors to come forward.
The duo will represent Altnagelvin Hospital as the Western Trust enters competitors into the games for the first time. In all 32 competitors will travel to Hamilton from the North on July 26.
Graham, who is 38, will take part in the shot putt, 5k run, five-a-side football, ten pin bowling, badminton and snooker while 40-year-old John will compete in the golf, snooker, darts and 5K walk.
Both men received kidney transplants and have been through the gruelling process of constant dialysis.
Graham explained that he received his new kidney from a pool system which saw his wife Marissa donate a kidney to another needy recipient.
“I got the transplant five years ago and was on dialysis for just over three years, for eight hours at night. It takes its toll and left me with very little energy and I had cramps and other pains. Prior to getting ill, I was always playing football and was quite active but when the dialysis started I had to give it up. I don’t get dialysis anymore but I take medication to stop the kidney being rejected and get checked every few months.
“I have been training for a few months, mainly for the shot putt and the 5K. I feel good. There were times on dialysis I felt really down and didn’t think I would be able to do all this. The games will also be a chance to meet other people who been through the same”.
John received a transplant 18 years ago when he was 22. He explained, “I started to bloat out and went to the doctor one day and was sent straight to the hospital. Four months later I was on dialysis with kidney failure. I spent four and a half years on dialysis three days a week, four hours a day. It was very scary and I was very young and my family thought I was dying. I take medication and am monitored but I’m like a new man. It is unbelievable.
“I have received a gift from somebody and a second chance at life. I have responsibility to this kidney. When you get right down to it, somebody has died for you to live.”
Both Graham and John are training hard for their chosen sports and are savouring the opportunity to compete.
However they emphasise that the most important message is to encourage other people to become organ donors.
Transplant nurse Una McDonagh said, “It is a fantastic opportunity for Graham and John and the other competitors. We hope they will come back with medals but whatever happens they are winners. We hope their stories and the games will promote greater awareness of organ donation and encourage others to come forward.”
Anyone over the age of 18 can donate an organ or carry an organ donor card.
For information call 028 8283 3100 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.