Transplant Games of America Athlete Profile: Carol Fitzsimons
Today is the last day of the 2014 Transplant Games of America. The Olympic-style event, held July 11-15 in Houston, TX, was designed to celebrate the Gift of Life through transplantation, as well as highlight the need for more donors.
Thousands of individuals touched by donation convened for the games, to cheer on transplant recipients as they participate in sports ranging from track and field to badminton. Carol Fitzsimons is one of the members of Team Ohio and represented the Buckeye state at the national event. Read more about “Miss Fishie” below.
Carol Fitzsimons, aka Miss Fishie, was diagnosed with kidney disease and progressive kidney failure at 17 during her senior year of high school. Her condition continued to worsen for the next 19 years – home peritoneal dialysis began in spring of 2000.
Her friend, and teaching colleague, Janet Patrick stepped up and wanted to donate a kidney to Carol. Janet was the perfect match! Carol’s transplant was performed Oct. 6, 2000 at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
In Carol’s words…
With the transplant, my life was forever changed. Soon after recovery, I learned of the Transplant Games. My first Games experience was the 2001 Buckeye Transplant Games in Columbus and I was HOOKED! It was the first time in 19 years of illness that I was able to connect with other transplant recipients who could relate to my life and death experiences.
My first US Transplant Games were held at Disney World the following summer – it was one of the most amazing events. I had never before envisioned meeting a group of survivors coming together in such an epic and delightful way. The Games were full of joy, tears, triumphs and encouragement for each individual whose life had been saved via organ donation. Sharing the experiences with and getting to know donor families was an element of the Games which has forever touched my heart.
My donor, Janet, was able to accompany me that same summer to my first Canadian Transplant Games in Newfoundland, Canada. It was awesome to be able to demonstrate via competition in the pool, how much her gift of a kidney changed my life! Lifetime friendships were formed and experiences from these first games experiences will be forever etched in my memory.
So, why do I continue to attend the Transplant Games and what do they mean to me? That is a simple, yet complicated answer. Training in the pool has strengthened me physically and emotionally with maintaining a healthy body and spirit when dealing with the ups and downs of life as a transplant recipient. The games provide me with the motivation to train each day to accomplish personal goals and to assist with defeating the sometimes debilitating side effects of post-transplant medications. More importantly, the Games provide us with a wonderful venue for promoting camaraderie with the the transplant community, to empower each other and to show our gratefulness to living donors and donor families!
The Games also serve as a national and world showcase for the power and need for transplantation. We who were given death sentences, are now living happy, healthy lives. We are capable of working, raising families, supporting our communities and even competing in high-level physical competitions. Although gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded in each of the sporting events, it is the fact we make the effort to train and maintain a healthy lifestyle that is most important. Each participant is a winner for defeating disease and striving to contribute to society, bringing hope to those who yet await the gift of life via organ donation.
Since that first Buckeye Games in 2001, I have never stopped training or communicating with my transplant family. My Games events have included three Buckeye Games, three Canadian Transplant Games, two Australian Transplant Games, seven US Transplant Games and six World Transplant Games.
Each experience is exciting and adds another grand piece to the puzzle we call LIFE! If you have not yet experienced THE GAMES, I challenge you to take the plunge! Whether you choose to swing a tennis racket, hit the track, dive into the pool, or toss a bowling ball…..you will never regret it!