Proud to compete for Britain – and Derriford
A CROWNHILL woman who has received three donated kidneys has described the honour of representing Plymouth at the British Transplant Games.
Janet Jenkins, aged 58, won three medals at the 2009 games in Coventry, held specifically for those who have undergone transplant surgery to highlight the importance of organ donation and promote fitness and friendship.
SPORTING CHANCE: (left to right) Sarah Roberts, Terry Wright, Janet Jenkins, Michael McCullough and Team Plymouth manager Claire West
Janet – who calls her most recently donated kidney 'Sidney' – was on dialysis for 12 years and has undergone three operations, with her latest transplant taking place seven years ago.
"To have the opportunity to do the things you love after such a long illness is amazing," said Janet, a configuration engineer at Devonport Dockyard. "The camaraderie that exists between all of us who've gone through similar things is incredible."
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Janet won a gold in 10-pin bowling, a bronze in 400m track and a silver in the shot-put.
Started at Portsmouth in 1978 by Maurice Slapak, who at the time was a transplant surgeon, the occasion has grown to become a four- day annual event for more than 600 competitors and nearly 1,000 supporters.
The competition includes a wide range of events, and from these games is selected the team to represent Great Britain in the World Transplant Games.
Janet said she had had the honour to compete in previous world games twice, in swimming events, but was unable to enter this year because of illness.
"In my youth I did so much sport, especially in the water – from synchronised swimming to water polo," she said. "When I couldn't do anything from my late twenties to the day before my 41st birthday, it was hard.
"To have the operations and then represent your country – and Derriford – is amazing.
"You have to remember it's someone else who has given me the opportunity to live. I can't put into words the feeling of that; it's a unique feeling. Without the donation of someone's organs after they died, it wouldn't be possible.
"I have to always thank the person's family for that. It's such a unique gift."
She added: "To donate is such a selfless act, but you have to respect the wishes of those who don't wish to be put on the list. You only appreciate the importance of it all when it happens to you or someone close to you."
Janet has worked full-time all the way through her health problems. "It's this that has given me the focus to keep going," she said.
"They've supported me all the way."
She said the nurses at the occupational health centre in the dockyard were fantastic, helping her change her dialysis bag when she went through years of continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) before her operations.
She said her CAPD let her get on with things. "As long as it's a clean environment, I can change my bags anywhere.
"I've changed them on a plane, a train and even while someone held it as I sat under a tree!
"The nurses always let me use the facilities and were fantastic, and work has always supported me."
She added that the sports and social club at Devonport Dockyard had also been 'incredibly supportive'.
Two representatives of the Plymouth area, Terry Wright, from Looe, and Stuart House, from Millbrook, in Cornwall, are currently in Sydney for the World Transplant Games.
Stuart spent six months on dialysis before receiving his transplant from his father in July 2006 and has competed in the British Transplant Games for the last three years.
This year he won medals in the shot-put, discus and swimming.
Terry spent two years on dialysis before receiving his kidney transplant 17 years ago this October. He has competed in 16 British Transplant Games and five World Transplant Games, and says keeping fit for sport has helped him to stay healthy.
He competed in the table tennis and 5k walk at this year's British Transplant Games, gaining a gold medal in both events.
Claire West, research nurse at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, editor of Transplant Sport and manager for Team Plymouth, said: "I'm so proud of the team for what they've achieved this year.
"These transplant athletes are an inspiration to us all and demonstrate the importance of the organ donor register and its potential to save lives," she said.
"The Games play an important part for these athletes in helping them to live a full and active life following their successful transplant.
"They give everyone a focus, as well as being a place to celebrate the gift of life and give competitors the opportunity to express their thanks to the donors and their families.
"If it weren't for the generosity and kindness of the people and their families who donated life-saving organs the Transplant Games would simply not happen."