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Northern Ireland transplant athletes celebrate the gift of life by going for gold

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 31/07/2015

NI Tranplant Games team: (back, from left) Myra Weir; Anne Rainey; Ruth Crainey; Wendy Howe; Marie Devine; Eileen O Haire; Sharon Millen; (front, from left) Orla Smith; Fidelma Hodkinson; Ailis Corey and Catherine Glover
NI Tranplant Games team: (back, from left) Myra Weir; Anne Rainey; Ruth Crainey; Wendy Howe; Marie Devine; Eileen O Haire; Sharon Millen; (front, from left) Orla Smith; Fidelma Hodkinson; Ailis Corey and Catherine Glover
Sharon Millen
Ailis Corey
Wendy Howe

A team of inspirational athletes from Northern Ireland is hoping to bring back a record haul of medals from the British Transplant Games.

Over four days the team of 20, who have all received life-changing organ donations, will compete in events including swimming, athletics, golf and tenpin bowling.

The medal tally got off to a great start yesterday with Belfast man Chris Boyd winning gold in the archery. He is one of around 600 athletes from across the UK who is in Newcastle Upon Tyne to compete in the annual Games, which aim to demonstrate there is "life after organ donation".

Running since 1978, the event, which ends on Sunday, helps to raise awareness of the benefits of transplantation and the need for more people to join the NHS Organ Donation Register.

Among the athletes is Kathryn Glover, a 34-year-old teacher from Ballygowan, who had a kidney transplant in 2009, and who last year won five medals.

She said: "Having had personal involvement in the Games, I know what an amazing opportunity this is for our new athletes to truly show the difference that the gift of life can make to people's lives."

Also competing is Wendy Howe (54) from Bangor, who said getting a liver and kidney transplant had transformed her life.

"Being able to go and challenge myself to try new sports and compete is a way of celebrating every new day for me," she said.

Ailis Corey, from Kildress near Cookstown, endured a long battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer, in 2012 but has now had the all-clear for a year. She said that by competing in the Games she hopes to "show anyone out there who is going through what I did that there is light at the end of the tunnel".

More than 619,000 people are now on the donor register, but there are still around 160 people here waiting for a transplant, and around 15 people die in Northern Ireland each year while waiting or one.

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