Transplant Team Ireland

Keep up-to-date with me on This Limbo - a blog about dialysis & other curiosities

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ten reasons...

The main reasons why the Games have been a tonic so far and why I am looking forward to Dublin's hosting of this life-affirming event:

1. It will bring me back to DCU, where I spent the happiest years of my strange existence so far.

2. There is the promise of absolute, heedless, ridiculous fun, regardless of our performances on the course, court or track.

3. I have noticed in these weeks as we await the start of the Games that the element of distraction is growing. Less time spent on moaning about dialysis, more time being constructive or excited about this coming week of participation. This is undoubtedly a good thing.

4. I look forward to days of healthy competition and celebration - for those who come first and those who may be chasing the pack but who are nonetheless defying odds and clocking up a victory by their very presence.

5. I look forward too to nights of team meetings and chatting with those from other countries who might not speak our language but who will understand where we have been and how we have been.

6. The Hungarians!

7. I have a mind that at some point we may be able to form some kind of delegation to speak to representatives from the organisers of the World Games next year and suggest other possible events, ie Dodgeball

8. A chance also perhaps to meet some volunteers and ask why our Games mean something to them - I know of some who are the family of organ donors who see this event as part of their ongoing, selfless contribution to our new lives.

9. Feeling like I am doing something in the most positive way possible to promote the carrying of a donor card and to help transform the debate in the public domain about organ donation from a murmur into an irrepresible, ongoing conversation

10. Coming away from it all on August 15 with memories to cherish and friends for life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A series of strange coincidences

Life was flowing along nicely for me in the summer of 2001. Exams were over, my second year as a student at DCU was complete and I had secured my first real job as a reporter with the Irish Sun. I was 19 years old.

Tabloid journalism was not for me, but it was an education in itself. Not just about how to write for an attention-deficient society, but also about what the majority in that society wish to read. Sex and tragedy. That was all that mattered.

There were many sad incidents that summer. I remember attending the funeral of a mother killed in a boating accident and phoning the home of a toddler who had been killed in a farm accident to see if in their hour of grief his parents might want to make a comment to a journalist. They didn't. Thank God.

In the midst of all this there loomed another event that was deemed by my editor to be worthy of attention. A good editor knows as much about human behaviour as any psychologist and my then boss knew that out of great sadness there could come a story of heroics that would be devoured by his readers. People like to read some optimism in their newspaper occasionally, especially on a friday or a saturday.

The Transplant Games were being held in Japan that year and I was sent along to the ALSAA to meet some of the team, get quotes about how they were overcoming the great challenges in their lives and write what they call a feel-good story.

I have little memory of what I wrote about the team back then, though it is probably in a scrapbook somewhere at home. I do know I had never heard of the Transplant Games before that day and it seemed a rather novel idea - something however that didn't really concern me because I was healthy and they were sick.

In 11 days, I will return to DCU as part of Transplant Team Ireland.

Funny how things turn out.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Recipe for a successful sunday

Take seventy members of Team Ireland, add one of our own atheletic legends, dozens of donated sandwiches, one remarkably patient photographer, three score and ten matching team kits and a number of butterflies native to the tummy area...and what do you get?

Team Ireland on its last formal get-together prior to our hosting of the 6th European Transplant & Dialysis Games.

There was inspiration in abundance up at the ALSAA, supplied in the growing camaraderie that is uniting the old hands on the team and the new batch of hopefuls and nicely complimented by the words of Eamonn Coughlan.

Those cyncial about motivational speaking and those who see it as being a bit David Brent would do well to sit and listen to Coughlan for a quarter of an hour. He made it sound easy, but then the greats always do.

He was happy to take questions and happy too to subject himself to the mandatory team photos. The pose of looking as though you are about to take off from starting blocks on a track is not one I've personally practiced in the mirror before. Nor have I ever seen them do it on America's Next Top Model. I'm sure we'll all look wonderful nonetheless.

A final note, I must apologise to the 13-14 year old whose tracksuit I stole. These are only words for the sake of it however, I am not even remotely sorry. I'm short and you have the prospect of further growth ahead of you. So don't talk to me about what's fair!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Then the heavens opened

It's coming back to me.

Very slowly.

My love of running. It's kid's stuff, a nonsense really. To set off at pace down a stretch of road, flailing limbs, competing with nobody but in a race with something or someone nonetheless.

I associate running with the minutes after we were dropped off at school but before the master had arrived to open up. The ritual was the same every morning, a tight schedule of head-to-head contests to get the day started.

You went up against your own classmates and your own sex. Occasionally you challenged those who were older because a victory in this category granted you a new level of respect that may have been short-lived and overturned with a re-run the following day, but which was still significant.

Running in the teenage years became a torture, something that was required during PE, before volleyball matches, more for the sadistic pleasure of a teacher whose limited knowledge of the human anatomy extended to 10 laps and two types of stretches as a warm-up.

It was only in the twenties that there were glimmers again of running as a possible source of fun. Now in sickness it is so much more, a measure of how much my body can still manage even with its obvious weaknesses.

It's why I force myself to do it, even on days like today when the legs feel like they have been removed overnight, packed with weights and sewn back on and the heavens have opened outside.

I secretly prefer to run in a downpour. It feels more real when you're drenched within two minutes of stepping outside and you are rewarded for good, steady breathing with raindrops from Sellafield in your mouth and you jump over puddles for the entire jaunt until you're near home and then you just run through the water, knowing a hot shower is only a couple of minutes of soggy socks away.

When you run in the rain, you feel ten years old again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It hurts

I used to think sporting people who talked about their injuries were akin to parents who bored their childless friends with talk of babies. It seemed boastful, self-involved and really, really uninteresting.

But I now take those words and I eat them, having gained a new-found sympathy for this particular type of twinge. The hamstring in my left leg is strained or pulled or just sick of me trying to run him around the block, while the general area around my right hip is ripped apart with a piercing jolt every time I walk at any kind of speed.

So running and walking both result in pain, leaving me in a bit of a bind. I don't believe they have a category for athletes on crutches in the Games.

Before anyone gets into lecturing mode about the need to warm up and cool down, I am diligent when it comes to both (my stretches are legendary amongst those who have witnessed my pre-gazelle-like-motion preparations).

But obviously, I'm going wrong somewhere. I thought I had fairly mastered the art of walking at this stage, but as my family will testify, I did spend most of my childhood falling over so maybe it's an ongoing balance/mobility problem.

Whatever the reason, I need to fix it because I'm in danger of suffering frostbite from the ice packs that are now attached to my legs every evening.


Kudos to those people who continue to run even with years of this particular type of pain. They obviously do it for the love of the endorphines and not just for the hope of a medal and a lap of honour in front of a home crowd.

If any of those such sporty types are reading this, please feel free to suggest some remedies I could try.

And for the love of God, don't say Deep Heat.