Ten years ago, transplant patients from the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust (RBFT) formed the Berkshire Royals team and competed in the annual Transplant Games, a national event which has been taking place annually for 30 years. This year the team, led by Sam Scott, competed at the games and successfully bought home eight medals in tennis, table tennis, darts, archery x2 , shot putt, 100 metres sprint, and ball throw. Nationally, competitors aged between 2 - 80+ years took part and highlighted the positive impact and life changing effect organ and tissue donation can have on patients and their families. The games are also a celebration of the gift of life and a way of thanking the donor families. As a result of their success at national level, three members of the Berkshire Royals have been selected to represent the UK in next year’s World Transplant games.
The annual Transplant Games, which took place this year in Birmingham over four days, was the largest British Games to-date, with over 800 competitors. In addition to participating, one of the clear benefits which struck the team was the major impact the Games had on the local community with an increased awareness of organ donation, and the health benefits to transplant patients.
The RBFT transplant service provides support to a wide range of patients across Berkshire prior and post-transplant, and patients currently on the dialysis programme who are preparing for a transplant. Nationally, renal services take up approximately 5% of the NHS funding, but the cost to patients and their families is far greater. Those on dialysis are required to be on either three times a week or daily for 8 hrs per night, the impact this can have on family life, dietary restrictions, employment and education can be severe.
The transplant team welcomed a recent government decision to make organ donation an ‘opt-out’ process in England, as it promises a significant rise in organ availability and a corresponding fall in the death rate of those waiting for a transplant.
For those RBH patients fortunate enough to find a matching donor, they undergo the transplant surgery at Oxford and are then repatriated back to the RBH team after six months for their future ongoing care. Currently the RBH have 450 who have had successful transplants under their care. A transplant is an amazing gift of life and the positive impacts for a patient and their family are incredible; releasing them from the restrictions of end stage renal dialysis and its associated side effects. With a transplant, patients can go back to living normal, full lives.
Barbara Harris, Renal Home Therapies Lead Nurse said: “It’s so important that families talk to one another and share their wishes around organ donation. This can assist traumatised families with their difficult decision making when faced with the unexpected loss of a loved one. For the team, seeing patients receive successful transplants and the positive effect it has on their lives is better than any thank you or box of chocolates!”
On the back of their success at this year’s games, the Berkshire Royals are determined to grow the team and raise the profile of organ donation in Berkshire and highlight the enormous benefits the games bring to both patients and their families and friends. To attend the games has a financial cost some much of which was covered by the actual patients fundraising events and kind donations by a number of local businesses.
Steve McManus, chief executive said “This is an incredible achievement and I’m immensely proud of the outstanding transplant team here at the RBH and the amazing work they do to help support patients through their dialysis and transplant journey. Huge and well deserved congratulations to the Berkshire Royals and I wish the members competing with the British team every success at the World Transplant Games next year.”
Some of the team members shared:
“The gift of life is a precious one, by competing I feel like I am able to celebrate that gift, I feel like it's good to spread the message of organ donation through sport (even if you are not sporty) and celebrate the fact that you are able to attend. I was amazed when I won two medals in one game, and overall three gold’s, one silver and one bronze in the four games I competed in.”
“There is great camaraderie at the Transplant Games and we often meet up with the same people each year. I have mobility issues but I still managed to compete. Going to the games is one of the highlights of my year”.
“Twelve years ago, my life was transformed when I received a kidney. I have formed fantastic relationships with people that I would otherwise not have met, including a beautiful partner and hospital staff who are totally dedicated. We have sadly lost friends along the way, which makes me realise how fortunate I am. I want to thank the family who, at probably their worst time, gave their consent to a family member’s wishes to donate their organs. I think about the donor and her family every day.”
The Berkshire Royals Team and their supporters expressed their sincere thanks for the generous support they received for the 2018 transplant games.