Someone, Somewhere …….
Not all of you will know Pam Lane. She is a member of the club’s masters team who recently had success at the North West Regional Masters competition in Blackpool. But there is more to Pam than meets the eye.
Pam was told at the age of 21 that she had inherited a kidney disease that would probably result in her needing a kidney transplant at some point in her life. Pam battled on for just over twenty years before her kidneys failed completely. She was then put on dialysis for six and a half years, giving her plenty of time to get used to renal failure. Unusually, both Pam’s kidneys were removed just after she started on dialysis so she had over six years with no kidneys at all and was completely dependent upon the life support that dialysis gave her!
The doctors weren’t hopeful that a transplant would be possible as they didn’t think they would be able to find a good enough donor match. Pam says, “the day the telephone call came telling me that a match had been found seemed surreal. It was a very emotional time and, although I was quite scared about having another operation, I was so happy that I was getting a chance to live life normally again.” So, in 2012, she underwent the transplant surgery.
Although Pam had taken part in sports when she was younger, she had done less and less as her health declined. Just getting through the day was enough of a challenge. She swam for recreation, but only occasionally. It was only after her transplant that she realised how tired and unwell she had really been for such a long time.
Having been so fortunate to find a match and have the operation Pam was determined to stay as fit and healthy as possible in order to make the most of having such an amazing gift of a donated kidney. As she will tell you, “someone, somewhere signed the organ donor register and, thanks to that person, I have the energy to be able to swim and live a normal life.” It was then that she made a promise to herself - if she could, she wanted to compete in the British Transplant Games. She began to swim and play badminton and has also competed in Transplant Volleyball for the last two years. But in July 2015, just three years after her transplant, she achieved her ambition and took part in the British Transplant Games in Newcastle. Once is never enough, of course, and the following year Pam took part in the 2016 Games in Liverpool. But what she didn’t expect was to be told two months later that she had been selected for the World Transplant Games as a result!
But she isn’t alone!
Another one of our Masters swimmers is joining her - fellow Barracuda Matt Burrows.
Matt was a competitive swimmer at St Helens ASC from age 10 to 16. He was a regular age group competitor who reached regional level. His claim to fame was beating Stockport and GB swimmer, and World record holder for 100m & 200m Fly, James Hickman in one of his events - it wasn't Fly but nonetheless a win is a win …….. if only that had been at the Worlds Matt!
A very sporty and naturally talented youngster, Matt played lots of football, competed in cross country running and was a very talented golfer. In fact in golf he won the regional Daily Telegraph scratch tournament as a 16 year old then went on to play in the national final at Royal Birkdale. But then his health took a decline.
Matt has always had a positive attitude in life so when he was diagnosed as needing a kidney transplant he just took it in his stride. It was only when he got the call to say an organ match had been found that he became very nervous. But thanks to the amazing hospital staff he regained his positive approach and on 1st April 2015, a new kidney. Matt said he hadn’t really appreciated how ill he had become over the previous 15 years. It was only when he’d had the transplant that he remembered what normal good health had felt like.
Having always been a ‘glass half full’ kind of person Matt said that having the transplant has made him more relaxed generally and he set himself a goal after his transplant. One which many of us take for granted, but his goal is quite simply to ‘live life’, for himself and his family but also for the donor’s family who made the decision to donate their loved one’s organs, and but for whom, he would still be struggling.
Part of Matt’s guest for living life has meant that after 23 years he has got back into the swimming pool to compete. He did his first mainstream national short course masters in 2016 achieving 12th place overall in his age band - which with limited training and only 18 months after his transplant is quite an achievement! That, and qualifying for the World Transplant Games with Pam, has now given him all the stimulus he needs to go faster.
Team GB for the World Transplant Games is the third biggest national sports team after the Olympic and Paralympic Teams. They both feel a real sense of pride in being selected and competing for GB against transplant athletes from around the world. There will be other athletes there too competing not only in swimming, but also in track and field athletics, racquet sports, cycling etc. Overall, there will be an estimated 2,500 participants from 55 nations. The event is held every two years and the 2017 competition is being held in Malaga from 25th June to 2nd July. There is an Opening Ceremony with a parade of athletes, six days of competition, then the Closing Ceremony.
The swimming takes place over two days (Wednesday, 28th and Thursday, 29th June) at Inacua, Malaga's 50m indoor pool. Pam will be swimming in five events - 50m and 100m Backstroke, 50m and 100m Freestyle and 50m Breaststroke. Whilst Matt will be competing in all the 50m events and the 100m Backstroke. He’s also keeping his fingers crossed that he will make both the relays too.
Both Pam and Matt are truly grateful for the chance that their transplants has given them to live normal active lives and they both mean to make the most of it. They and their fellow World Transplant Games athletes are a living reminder to us all that there is no greater gift than the gift of life. I’m sure you will join me in wishing Pam and Matt the very best in Malaga - we will be proud to see two Barracudas on the blocks.
If you want to know more about the World Transplant Games, this is the link:
If you want to know more about organ donation