FIVE NIGHTS IN HOLLAND
by Richard Caulkin
What happened on the night of June 27/28 2012 could best be summed up as a “sleepless night.” The reason is this was the night before my first event in my first transplant games.
On the evening of June 27, the parade ceremony and formal opening of the 14th European Heart and Lung Transplant (EHLT) Games had taken place. From that moment on, the quest to jump higher, run faster and be stronger began as competitors in 10 sports vied for sporting success. A total of 244 competitors and around 150 supporters from 20 countries and regions participated.
Competitions were held in Apeldoorn, with the high-standard facilities including the Omnisports centre, Olympic-sized pool and athletics track no more than a 20-minute coach ride from the lovely Golden Tulip hotels hosting the competitors and supporters.
This was a sports carnival, but more than that, a celebration of life, for none of the transplantees taking part would be alive were it not for the generous gifts of their donors and donor’s families. Hence, the main aim of the games, besides having a hell of a good time, is to promote organ donation and help save more lives by showing the many positive aspects associated with it, primarily that it is possible to lead a normal life after transplant: “Reborn to be alive” as the Belgian organ donor foundation puts it.
Team GB sent one of the largest delegations of more than 30 participants to the 14th-EHLTG, with over half of these consisting of Freeman patients, and as in previous years we were highly successful with our medals tally gaining 52 golds, 43 silver and 7 bronze. While trying to do their best in competition, whether they finished first or last, all those taking part have shown their never-say-die spirit.
So how did I get on you may be wondering?
The answer to that is mixed. In my first event, the 20k cycle race I finished 5th in a time of 34 minutes. In my second event I won silver in the 50m breaststroke with the 4thquickest time of the day over that distance. However, on the final day, disaster struck when I sprained my foot in my first event of what should have been a busy day of athletics. This caused me to miss four further events including my main event, the 1500m. But never mind. As they say, I’ll live to fight another day; and that is undoubtedly the most important thing.