IN SIX weeks, the World Transplant Winter Games will take place in Bormio, Italy and a local father will be attending in support of his late son.
Mark Roonan, who lives in Tunbridge Wells, has a very close connection to the Games, as his son, Sam, had a double lung transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2012 at the age of 13.
Following his operation, Sam competed in the Games, winning three Gold Medals at the event in Switzerland in 2018.
Sadly, Sam died in 2020 while on the waiting list for a new pair of lungs after issues with his transplanted organs. Now, his father Mark wants to raise more awareness for organ transplants.
He said: “There is a shortage of organs for those needing lifesaving transplant operations and the Transplant Games is a great way to publicise that and encourage people to discuss and go on the donor list.
“Additionally the event is just an amazing experience for those who have had a transplant or have an association,” he added. “I’m really happy to be able to go help and support this year and remember the joy of life Sam got after his transplant operation.”
This year, Team GB will be competing at the Games on March 3-8 in Bormio. The team includes 19 transplant athletes, eight live donors and three donor family members. They will be accompanied by a further 20 supporters and volunteers.
The transplant athletes have all survived either a heart, kidney, liver, multi-visceral or bone marrow transplants, and come from all parts of the UK.
Lynne Holt, GB Team Manager said: “Not only are these athletes ambassadors for organ donation, but they are also representing the charity, Transplant Sport, with the aim to raise awareness of organ donation here in the UK and globally. Part of this also includes encouraging conversations with friends and family to discuss their wishes regarding organ donation and signing up for the Organ Donor Register.”
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, call 0300 123 23 23 or visit organdonation.nhs.uk