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Kathryn's journey from dialysis dependency to golden girl

By Victoria O'Hara

A woman who spent 10 hours a night on dialysis before a life-changing organ donation is among the inspirational team of athletes who brought back nearly 50 medals from the British Transplant Games.

Kathryn Glover (34) returned from Newcastle Upon Tyne after winning an impressive six medals - two gold, two silver and two bronze - and is now preparing to head for more success at the World Games in Argentina.

The married teacher from Ballygowan, Co Down was struck down with kidney disease in 2005 and her organs went from 70% functionality to just 5%.

She was put on dialysis aged 24 and was on the transplant waiting list for four years before she got a second chance at life.

"Waiting for my kidney transplant has been the hardest thing I have ever had to wait for in my life; I cannot explain the range of emotions I experienced during this time, from fear to pure joy," she said.

But Kathryn has excelled in sport - in particular swimming - after discovering Transplant Sport NI and was one of a team of 20 who travelled to the annual four-day games.

Competing against 600 other athletes, the only exercise she could have done before her transplant was walking.

An overall tally of 49 medals - 17 gold, 18 silver and 14 bronze medals came back to Northern Ireland.

They ranged over events including swimming, athletics, golf, ten pin bowling and the inaugural living donor swimming relay race.

"The team spirit was just amazing at these Games," she said.

"I'm really pleased with my medals. I see this as a good warm up for the World Games in Argentina later this month."

Of all her medals, she said the swimming relay was her "most significant".

She won the bronze alongside Geoff McCracken and Gavin Fields, both recipients of kidney transplants and Andrew Weir, who had a bone marrow transplant.

"That medal I think meant the most to me the whole week - it really showed there is life after transplants."

Other success stories included Marie Devine, from Bangor, who won Best Veteran Female, having won four gold medals. The 47-year-old restaurant manager also had a kidney transplant and spent seven years undergoing 10 hours of daily dialysis.

Kathryn added that it had been a particularly poignant event after the death of the "inspirational driving force" behind the team.

Janet Coleman, the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Transplant Games swimming coach, died in June aged 51.

"I think that after losing Janet we all really gelled together as a team," Kathryn added.

"There was a great team spirit. It was a great year for everyone involved, it is about celebrating life."

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 for one.

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