Camaraderie, fellowship highlight biennual competition for transplant recipients
Mike Roman of Berkley admits he probably shouldn’t go to the Donate Life Transplant Games this year. But the 65-year-old heart recipient said the draw of attending in person again – after Covid forced a virtual platform – was too great to resist, despite his declining health.
“When you go once, you’ll never want to not go again,” said Mike, who is now waiting for a new kidney.
Roman planned to be in San Diego this week with more than 60 other transplant recipients, living donors, caregivers and donor family members from Michigan to participate in the Games. “The Games are a unique opportunity to celebrate life, for recipients to show their return to health and to show what the miracle of transplantation can do for people, and at the same time honor the donor families and living donors,” said Bill Ryan, president and CEO of the Transplant Life Foundation. Founded in 2011, the Grand Rapids-based foundation organizes the Games every two years.
“We’re excited that Team Michigan has once again put together a magnificent team,” Bill added. “It’s grown in size and scope over the years. It’s a tribute to their leadership. We think it’s one of the finest of the teams in the country.”
Team Michigan is participating in more than 20 competitions and 60 special events through Wednesday, Aug. 3 to celebrate the transplant community. Competitions range from pickleball to golf and tennis, basketball, track and field events, Zumba, poker, cornhole, bowling, badminton, and much more. There are also quilt-pinning ceremonies, a parade, workshops, and an expo designed to promote organ and tissue donation and celebrate recipients and donors.
“It’s a fantastic, inspiring, life-changing experience,” said Joyce Jensen of Byron Center. She attended the Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2018. “You just feel like you’re with people who understand transplant, meeting donor families. It’s part of your peace.”
Tucker Schumacher, who received a new liver recipient as an infant 28 years ago, agrees. He is going to take part in the golf and basketball competitions.
“I’m going to play them; I don’t know if I’ll compete,” the Grand Blanc man joked.
Marge Del Greco of West Bloomfield co-manages Team Michigan.
She said the Games help recipients celebrate their health, honor donors and their families, and educate the public about the need for registered organ donors. In Michigan, about 2,400 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. There are about 106,000 waiting across the country.
“It gives us a chance to put organ and tissue donation in the spotlight,” said Marge, a two-time liver recipient.
For more information about the Transplant Games visit transplantgamesofamerica.org
To sign up as an organ, eye and tissue donor visit golm.org/register.