U.S. Transplant Games in Madison
Larry Hagman helps the Transplant Games Video by tmj4.comvideo
MADISON - More than a thousand athletes are going for the gold in Madison, and they all have something in common: they're all organ recipients. They all received life-saving operations, thanks to the generosity of others.
And every two years, they get to show off their skills at the U.S. Transplant Games.
The 2010 games were held in Madison, so we visited to meet some of Team Wisconsin and celebrate life.
One of those team members is Kay Bauer from Germantown. Kay is a cystic fibrosis survivor.
"Growing up I never really thought far ahead, I really never expected to have much of a future," she told us.
Bauer had two siblings die from CF. But she was fortunate enough to receive a successful double lung transplant. So now, she races, with her mom at her side.
"For me to have this opportunity and for me to be here is just an honor, just to honor them and of course honor my donor family," she said humbly.
And what's overwhelming to us, is that everyone had stories just as inspiring.
Like Brianne Catarozoli. The cross country athlete started running in grade school. But just over a year ago, that stopped when she needed a new liver. Getting back on the track after her life-saving transplant was tough.
"Nervous, definitely nervous, but it's awesome to be back and just be an inspiration to people showing them that you can still do it and it doesn't matter what you got, what you need, it's not a disability, we're perfectly fine," Catarozoli said, as she showed us her three gold medals won at the Transplant Games.
The real victory, however, is showing the families of the organ donors what they made possible.
"Although it was a sad time for them, to be able to see the other side of it, what good comes out of organ donation," she said.
The event was huge, covering the entire UW McClimon track and soccer center, along with the Alliant Energy Center and other venues. More than 1200 athletes, plus families, volunteers and support staff are there. Competitors bike, swim, race, play volleyball, tennis and more.
There were even some familiar faces there. Remember JR Ewing of "Dallas?" TV star Larry Hagman received a liver transplant 15 years ago. Now, he's handing out medals at the US Transplant Games.
We asked him how his own transplant changed his life.
"It made me appreciate it a lot more, you don't take life for granted when you've gone through transplantation, and being surrounded by transplantees and the donor families and so forth, it's a wonderful occasion," he said humbly.
And whether you win or lose... National Kidney Foundation CEO Cindy Huber said the friendships made at the games, are for life.
"Everyone here understands what you and your family has journeyed through and so there really is a very special bond that is unique," she said.
Participants just hope everyone takes away one key message from the games: Please consider organ donation.
Larry Hagman stated it simply:
"I say would you accept a liver or a kidney or heart or lung or pancreas, if you needed one? They say well sure and I say to them well, where do you think they come from? Somebody's gotta donate this thing."
Participants in this year's games ranged from 2 to 85 years old. Team Wisconsin was the biggest team with 700 members.
A new website makes it easy to register to be an organ donor. It's called "Yes I will Wisconsin."