Sue Thompson Transplant Athlete: Powered by the Gift of Life 

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I am a kidney donor as well. I’m happy that I did it. It really brings greater purpose to my being in shape and in good health. I decided to do it when I was 62. I am now on the brink of age 70- G-d willing and am an open water swimmer.
I have never regretted doing it. It was a remarkable experience…. Almost like giving birth!!

Barbara Reinfeld 11 septiembre, 2023

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Sue Thompson is a nurse, mother, and a swimmer. She is also the recipient of a donated kidney. Diagnosed with renal failure at the young age of 12, Thompson spent a year on dialysis before receiving an unknown donor kidney that saved her life. Fast forward 37 years and Thompson has forged a career in nursing, raised a family, and thankfully never suffered any further complications from her transplant. In fact, recently, it’s been the opposite and Thompson represented Australia in swimming at the World Transplant Games. 

The World Transplant Games

Similar to the Olympics, the World Transplant Games brings together athletes from across the globe to annually compete in alternating summer or winter Games. Anyone who has received a lifesaving organ or bone marrow transplant over the age of 4 is eligible to compete. Beginning in 1978 with only 99 competitors, today close to 2500 athletes from 70 counties participate in over 50 events, including swimming during the summer competition.

 “We actually refer to each other by ‘you're a heart, you're a kidney’—by the organ transplant that you've had rather than who you actually are. Or when you introduce someone: This is Sue, she's a kidney,” Thompson laughs. “It’s really nice to be around those people that have gone through [a transplant] to just chat about your journey and what you've been through and see that they're just really, really happy to be where they are.”

Thompson competed in “all the swimming events,” including the 50, 100, 200, and 400 freestyle, 50 meter butterfly, 4x50 meter medley relay, the mixed 200 years old plus relay, as well as the swim leg of a team triathlon. 

Working shift work as a nurse, Thompson isn’t usually able to swim with a club or group.  Typically, Thompson swims alone or with her family, three or four times a week in the ocean or pool, preferring more endurance style swimming. When it came to preparing for the Games, getting back into the sprint style swimming she did and loved as a child was a challenge; however, after claiming the silver medal in her first event, the fire was well and truly lit. “I actually surprised myself,” Thompson says. “I started to enjoy that side of it again—I did become a little bit competitive! Having those medals dangling at the end makes you definitely go out there and really go for it.”

The Community 

Thompson also found motivation connecting with the transplant community. “It didn't matter where you were from, everyone was there encouraging people. If you were the first person or the last person in a race, it just didn't matter, people would cheer you on. Everyone is so supportive of each other,” she says. 

Being around so many other transplant recipients, brought her own experience into a new light. 

“When I had my transplant I was just 13 years old. I was a teenager and just wanted to get on to being normal and get on with my life and fit in,” Thompson explains. “It was quite isolating when I went through it but [the Games] actually made me realize there's a lot of people it’s happening to and you're not alone.”

Even now, Thompson explains that she and every transplant recipient has to stay on medicine their entire life and are forever at a higher risk of infection. With a little extra care, you can have a full and relatively normal life, but, for her and so many others around the world, it remains a constant part of life. 

Intermediate

“Before I went to the World Transplant Games, a lot of people at work didn't actually even know that I had a transplant. It’s not something I go out and tell everyone about—it’s kind of private. But then I have the transplant community and there was a big group of them from all over the world who just bonded. It was good to find these people, especially these teenagers that had gone through, that were going through the same thing, and in a sense they'd found their group, their people.”

Thanks to her participation in the World Transplant Games, Thompson found her group, her people too.

“There are people all over the world that are going through this and a lot of the time you don't think about that. It’s just a quiet little closed environment but there are people everywhere that this is happening to and every day there is someone getting a transplant, going through a journey a little bit the same as yours.”

Powered by the Gift of Life

The motto of the World Transplant Games is “powered by the gift of life” and, whether she’s flying down the pool in a race or enjoying the ocean with her family, it’s a spirit that Thompson truly brings to life. 

“Organ donors and their families are the most amazing people in the world. You'd never know what a difference you can make to someone's life.”

Become an organ donor now and save lives by registering with your national organ donation registry. 

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( 1 ) Comments

I am a kidney donor as well. I’m happy that I did it. It really brings greater purpose to my being in shape and in good health. I decided to do it when I was 62. I am now on the brink of age 70- G-d willing and am an open water swimmer.
I have never regretted doing it. It was a remarkable experience…. Almost like giving birth!!

Barbara Reinfeld

Deja un comentario