SA to host World Transplant Games

2012-07-24 09:32

“You can live on through someone else.”

That is the message Stanley Henkeman hopes will catch on as Durban prepares to host the World Transplant Games (WTG) in 2013.

The game was officially launched in Durban last night.

But the 19th instalment of the WTG will take place from July 28 to August 4 next year – the first time on African soil.

This WTG is an international sporting event held every two years for transplant athletes.

Participants range from four years to 80 years and all have had a life-saving organ transplant of the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys or bone marrow.

More than encouraging for transplant recipients to lead healthy lifestyles, these games are aimed at significantly enhancing the understanding and acceptance of organ donation within society.

Henkeman (54), chairperson of the South African Transplant Association in the Western Cape, says he is alive only because someone had decided that they would donate their organs when they died.

In 2001, he suffered a major heart attack while hiking in Western Cape, where he is from.

“My life changed in an instance. I moved from being a sporty and highly active person to struggling to get through the day. I suffered chronic fatigue.

“I would go to bed tired and wake up tired. I had to prepare myself mentally just to be able to walk ten steps. Something as easy as breathing became laborious,” said Henkeman.

By the end of 2006 he had heart failure and had to make a decision whether to go onto the list for people awaiting organ donations.

“It was really no rocket science. It was either I got on the list or died because it can happen any time. After the attack I lost the fear of death, but I think what everyone fears, is the uncertainty. Not knowing when it will happen.”

Fortunately for him, his heart held on for another eight months before he got a match.

“I now live life with an acute awareness that nothing is guaranteed. I don’t take a single breath for granted. I purposefully live each day grateful, in honour of my donor.

“Even the work I do for (the Institute of) Justice and Reconciliation is in honour of my donor. I bring people together in order to build an inclusive society.”

Henkeman will be among the expected 2 500 participants from 55 countries to register for different sporting codes in the games, among them track and field, cycling, swimming and golf.

This year he is competing in track and field, both in the 200m and 400m; javelin and shot put.

Henkeman holds a national record in the 100m and 200m as well as long jump.

Willie Uys, the chairperson of the local organising committee said there are 4 500 people in South Africa awaiting organ donation. But sadly, 450 die waiting.

The challenge in South Africa is religious and cultural beliefs that for the successful transference of the spirit from the body, the body needs to be whole.

“Interestingly, the people who become our biggest apostles are those recipients who were dead against organ donation but who were happy to receive it when they were in trouble.”

Olivier Coustere, president of the WTG federation, said in all countries where the games have been hosted, there has been marked interest registered in organ donation which they hope will happen in South Africa.

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