• Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

Blenheim Palace ready to host the Transplant and Dialysis Games

Byoxfordnewspaper

Aug 23, 2022

Around 500 athletes from around 25 countries were welcomed to Oxford at the start of the Transplant and Dialysis Games.

For the next week, the games will give transplant recipients the chance to compete, connect and socialise.

The games were founded in 2000 and have taken place every two years in cities around the world.

The event was launched with a parade of the athletes from across Europe around the Sheldonian Theatre.

After the opening ceremony, the party travelled by pleasure boat from Folly Bridge to Radley College which is hosting some of the events.

A particular highlight of the Games will be the cycling at Blenheim Palace on Wednesday August 24 and Thursday 25.

Dr Paul Harden, chair of Transplant Sport, which is hosting the games, was instrumental in bringing the games to the UK for the first time ever.

Since 2003 he has built up cutting edge young adult transplant service in Oxford.

He said: “It’s been an incredibly tough couple of years for transplant recipients and dialysis patients in particular and many have experienced fear and isolation due to having to shield.

“We are so excited to be able to stage the European Transplant and Dialysis Games in 2022 and invite the transplant and dialysis community from all over Europe to come together in Oxford, reconnect socially and take part in sport to help keep them active, something which is so important post-transplant.”

Heather Carter, Operations Director at Blenheim Palace, added: "Organ donation is such an important topic and we're proud to be doing our bit to raise awareness and encourage the people of Oxfordshire and beyond to talk about the subject with their loved ones."

Mike Oliver, who lives in Witney with his wife Gill, was diagnosed with the hereditary condition polycystic kidney disease, where cysts develop in the kidneys and as they grow larger, the kidneys struggle to work properly until, eventually, they cannot function at all.

In 2015, he received a kidney transplant after two years on the waiting list, and will be competing in the cycle event at Blenheim.

Mr Oliver, 59, said: “I’ve been a cyclist since I was 15 and it’s a sport that I’ve always enjoyed – I was a professional cyclist in the 80s and also took part in the Tour of Britain then.

“When I was diagnosed with kidney disease and had to go on dialysis, it was a big shock to the system.”

Mr Oliver’s condition is what is known as a ‘late-onset’ one, meaning it’s likely you’d go through life with no symptoms until you hit your 40s or 50s.

The renal team at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford had been closely monitoring his health and were able to pinpoint when he would reach what is known as ‘end-stage renal failure’.

Mr Oliver’s father, Robert and his aunt Elizabeth have both received kidney transplants and his family believe his grandmother may have had the same condition.

He said that competing in the games in Oxford will be a way to celebrate and honour the transplant he was lucky to receive.

Mr Oliver, who works as a retail analyst, said: “After the transplant I felt amazing and so different – you don’t realise how sick and how unwell you are until you get your transplant, you are only deteriorating slightly hour by hour and day by day.

“We have a fantastic renal unit at the Churchill and I am so grateful for them and the way they took care of me.

“Two or three months after the transplant I knew I wanted to get back into shape, lose weight and look after my transplant, and I thought cycling would be the best way to do it – I had my bikes I used to train on, so I knew I could do it.

“In June 2015 I started riding again and I wanted to aim for something and give myself a target.”

He ended up taking part in the 2016 British Transplant Games for the first time and since then has been competing almost every year. This year, he won gold in the cycling road race in Leeds.

He said: “I was quite surprised, given how little I had trained for it. I had covid in March and took my time recovering from it, as it affected me quite badly, so I didn’t do a lot of training. I think I was able to make up for it with a bit of experience.

“With the European games coming to Oxford, this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. It’s going to be interesting as the course is quite up and down and I’ve never really been that good at going up-hill.

“The competition is going to be very strong and I’ve been training like mad for the past four weeks.

“It’s an opportunity to say ‘look, after your transplant you can live a normal life, an active life’ – I received my transplant from a donor and I don’t know who that person was, but I feel it’s important to honour their donation and make the most of it.”