Although I have not logged in to write a post for an unfathomable amount of time (since before Christmas I believe), exciting things have been happening. Other than completing my A levels, and passing my driving test (yes, watch out road users), most notably, I was fortunate enough to attend and compete in the British Transplant Games very recently.
The British Transplant Games, this year held in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, in its simplest form, is the coming together of transplant patients from across the country to compete in a plethora of sports, but also to join hand in hand with other members of a special and minority community, to raise awareness for organ donation. We are given the opportunity to experience certain things in life that will leave an impact on us, and I can honestly say that even with the countless amount of incredible opportunities I have had the privilege of experiencing because of what I have been through, this one seemed to resonate with me in a unexpected way. It was very different to anything I have experienced before – when you think about transplant recipients, the likely connotations are to do with medication and surgery and hospitals and you can’t be blamed for that – after all, we are a rare bunch. I’m guilty of these thought processes too so to see so many transplant patients, just like me, competing in sports whether it was just for fun, or with talent but always with complete poise and agility, changed my perspective completely. The experience made me realise, not only about others, but myself too, that transplantation isn’t a thing to be ashamed of or hide, and it isn’t something that can hold you back or stop you from doing things, but it’s something that you should be proud of – like really, really proud of – and that it doesn’t necessarily effect your ability to achieve the things you want to in life.
I know you’re all probably wondering, what sports would I do? Well, before I entered to take part in the games as part of the Evelina VIPs Team , I pondered over the same question as each competitor has to enter into at least 5 events. Due to my ‘walking problems’, I couldn’t take part in the most obvious choice of track events such as sprinting or relay because unfortunately, my feet simply won’t carry me that fast. Instead, I decided to partake in sports that I decided I either had no, or every, chance at doing well in – so really, anything in which luck was to play a part – providing my fellow competitors weren’t total experts. In the end, I chose, archery, bowling, swimming (two races) and a 3k walk.
So, how did I do? I fully expected that although the games would be an exciting and different experience and I was ready to simply try my hardest in all my events (and fail), it turned out, that my performance wasn’t too shabby after all. In my first event, archery, I shot one bullseye and scored 5 points behind the bronze medalist at the end of the session – all the while, avoiding shooting and/or killing anyone. In bowling, I surprised myself further and managed to place 2nd in my category, much to my excitement. 9 year old Cecilia would have never thought that in years to come, she would be winning silver at a real bowling competition. It would seem that all those trips to Guildford Spectrum as a child, to bowl with my friends, were to pay off. However, I was incredibly nervous for swimming events I was going to be participating in. I used to have lessons when I was little but I hadn’t swum properly in nearly 8 years. Luckily, the quick practise I had in the hotel swimming pool the night before did me good and again, I placed second in my 25m Freestyle race (I swum front crawl – as did my competitors) and I might mention that the young lady I came second to is a World Transplant Games Competitor and was obviously a practised and accomplished swimmer… BUT I STILL CAME SECOND! I didn’t place in my second swimming race, 50m backstroke – a little more practise is needed in that respect! Unfortunately, due to transport issues (the bus driver got lost!!!), as ridiculous as it sounds, I wasn’t able to compete in my last event, the 3k walk, but I was happy and proud that I had managed to achieve so much in the others that I took part in.
I’ve never been good at sport, not before I became ill, and even more so after. I was beyond nervous to compete in the Transplant Games thinking that I would completely embarrass myself. It was only once I was there, I realised that the whole games is based around a concept of no judgement and the purpose is solely for people to come together, yes to compete, but not in a rivalrous or aspiring way, but in a respectful and chivalrous manner, with the understanding that not everyone is good at sports, and not everyone comes to win, but everyone there shares a common ground and that should be celebrated.
Not only did my experience in the British Transplant Games allow me to try new things and achieve in a way I never thought I could but I also met so many amazing people – especially my fellow team members. It truly was a fabulous and perspective changing experience that I enjoyed every second of and will cherish for years to come. I better get training for next year!
Finally, I think a thank you is due to the wonderful organisers who worked hard for months to bring the Evelina VIPs to the games. Grainne, Cathy, Pat and their lovely team are the reason that I, and all the other children who have received kidney transplants at the Evelina London Hospital are able to take part in this special, annual event. They made my first, and last year, competing as a child so magical and memorable and I can’t thank them enough.
I hope you have enjoyed this and remember, organ donation saves lives – so tick that box and be a hero.