Her job is to help prepare Britain’s Paralympic athletes to be at their best but, this summer, Emma Wiltshire has some medal-winning business of her own to do!
The 34-year old – who has until recently been living in Newport - is gearing up for the 2019 Westfield Health British Transplant Games in Newport this July as well as the World Transplant Games in Newcastle in August.
The action in Newport begins on 25 July which is Emma’s birthday and it also marks five years since her emergency transplant:
“I was 29 and working at a pre-Commonwealth Games preparation camp in the Algarve with the Welsh Athletics team doing sports massage. I was feeling a little unwell. I actually ended up collapsing in the hotel at breakfast and went into a coma.”
Emma – who had previously always enjoyed good health - was rushed to Lisbon by ambulance with Welsh Athletics staff. She was diagnosed with acute liver failure:
“I woke up a week later with a new liver. I was told afterwards I’d had a 5% chance of survival. I was incredibly lucky. I was rushed to the top of the emergency transplant list.
“There is no avoiding the fact that without my amazing donor, the consent of the donor’s family and the medical staff in Portugal, I wouldn’t be alive today. They have an anonymous system in Portugal so I cannot get in touch with my donor’s family but I feel so, so grateful.”
She first competed in the Westfield Health British Transplant Games just a year later in 2015 in Newcastle where she gathered an incredible haul of six medals for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital team from Birmingham. She grabbed gold in the 100m, 200m, long jump, high jump, the 4 x100m as well as a silver in the shot.
Her staggering debut performance secured her a spot on the GB team at the World Transplant Games later that year in Argentina. She returned home with six gold medals after winning the 100m, 200m, long jump, high jump, 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m.
And away from transplant sport, she is certainly holding her own on the British circuit. In 2016, she became the first transplanted athlete to qualify for the British Senior Indoor Championships.
She would like to compete in the 100m at the European Masters in Venice in September but “I only want to go if I can be competitive."
“Transplant sport has given me a new lease of life and a reason for getting fit and healthy,” says Emma.
“It wasn’t until I went to my first British Transplant Games that I met anyone else who had a transplant. Suddenly, I met hundreds - from kids as young as three to people well into their eighties. My Mum and husband were there watching and it was incredible. It was exactly a year post-transplant and it was a chance to celebrate how far I’d come.”
With more than 1,000 competitors taking part in 23 different sports and events, the Games, which will take place at venues across the city, promise to be a festival of sport and life, with over 2,500 people expected to attend.
Transplant survivors, including children as young as three, can take part in sports such as athletics, basketball, cycling, football, golf, snooker, swimming, tennis, volleyball and The Donor Run, an inclusive event open to the public.
The aim of the Games – organised on behalf of charity, Transplant Sport, is to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. Wales was the first to introduce a soft opt-out system of the organ donor register. However, the decision on organ donation is still made by loved ones. That’s why organisers are keen to spread the word that you need to make your wishes – whatever they may be - known to your family.
As of 31st December 2018, there were 232 patients in Wales waiting for a transplant. In the first three quarters of 2018/19, 19 patients died while on the active waiting list.
The event is supported by Westfield Health, Welsh Government, Newport City Council, Newport Live the local health boards across Wales, NHS Blood and Transplant, Kidney Care UK, Anthony Nolan Register, Donor Family Network, Believe Organ Donor Support and Global Kidney Foundation. Further sponsors include Friars Walk, Icon Design, Rodney Parade and Celtic Manor.