Registrations for the 2019 Westfield Health British Transplant Games, Newport have closed. Many of you will be competing for the first time. Lots of children – even as young as two or three – compete every year. To help parents and guardians to prepare for their first Games, we caught up with Clare Maceachen…
Harry was born in 2011. He had blocked bile ducts - a disease known as Biliary Atresia that affects about 1 in 12,000 births - but it wasn’t diagnosed until nine weeks old. He had a big operation at Birmingham Children’s Hospital but needed a liver transplant at 11 months. He required a second transplant and Dad, Simon donated to his son in March 2016.
Which Games have you been to?
Harry attended his first Westfield Health British Transplant Games aged three in Bolton 2014, representing the Birmingham Children’s Hospital team.
Harry was very poorly in 2015, so we missed the Games that year. He needed a second transplant – so Daddy Simon provided one as a living donor in March 2016, just before Harry’s fifth birthday.
They have both competed at Liverpool 2016 (less than five months following the re-transplant), Motherwell 2017 and Birmingham 2018.
What have been your favourite memories?
Their first event together was the living donor parent and child obstacle race in Liverpool 2016 when Harry was five. This is always a very emotional event for all concerned – spectators and competitors. This was a special moment for Simon as Harry ran into his arms showing how well they had both recovered and the special bond they shared. Harry’s best Games memory was winning gold in the 25m dash that same year.
What do you look forward to most?
He always looks forward to catching up with his friends. He says the BCH Team party is the best – there’s a disco, food and art competitions. He and little brother Sam (who has also attended the four Games – he was just 12 months when we went to Bolton) also loved the Children’s Social event at Birmingham’s Think Tank last summer.
How do you prepare for the Games?
Harry, who is now eight, and Simon are planning on going to an athletics track to practice long jump. They have been busy practising ball throwing in our park. Simon has been going to the pool several times a week, along with his usual running – he is representing GB in this summer’s World Transplant Games in Gateshead too.
What do you need to pack?
Always pack your sports kit and some smart clothes for the evening! Sunscreen (in the hope it’s better weather than 2017!) and swimming stuff if your team accommodation has a pool.
Do you arrive early for events?
The BCH team managers are amazing and do as much of the registration etc as possible – so the younger children don’t have to hang around.
When Harry was younger, did you take things along to help entertain him?
Harry said having his brother in tow has always kept him entertained! When they were aged just 12 months and three in Bolton, they spent hours playing with giant Jenga blocks. Birmingham had fabulous art activities to keep the children busy. There are also some competitions for siblings – Sam has won two medals for cup stacking.
The boys have a good group of friends at the Games – not just from BCH, but children from other hospital teams who compete each year in the same competitions. We know people from Alderhey and King’s College London. Simon has also met other live donors form other teams.
What would your biggest piece of advice for parents going to the Games for the first time?
Both boys’ give the same advice – don’t be nervous, enjoy yourselves and make friends!
How important do you think the Games are in terms of spreading the word of organ donation?
The Games are excellent at promoting both organ donation (just by getting people to talk about it – and spread the message to share their wishes) and at promoting a healthy lifestyle after transplant.
As a family, it gave us a huge focus in the weeks following Harry’s re-transplant as we really wanted to attend Liverpool – the medical forms had to be signed by one of Harry’s surgeons as he hadn’t yet been discharged back to his consultant.
Thank you Clare and see you all in Newport!