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Miracle girl Rachel (9) ready for Games

A young girl from Ligoniel and two north Belfast men are competing in the Westfield Health British Transplant Games in Belfast at the beginning of next month.

They all received life saving transplants allowing them to lead healthy and active lives, and to take part in the event, held between August 4 and 7.

Rachel McCrea, aged 9, from Ligoniel is taking part in the 50 metre dash, obstacle race, ball throw, long jump and tug of war.

Michael McLaughlin from north Belfast will compete in the 50m freestyle, 10 km cycle road race, ten pin bowling, archery, 400m track, swim relay and track relay, while Paddy O’Neill, also from north Belfast will take part in the ten pin bowling, five km cycling time trial, discus, shot putt and snooker events.

Rachel McCrea’s mother Kathleen said: “Rachel had a kidney transplant on the December 23, 2007. She couldn’t participate in any sports before her transplant as she had very limited mobility and had difficulty even walking.

“The differences in Rachel now are nothing short of miraculous and there are far too many positive changes in her lifestyle to list, but if I had to choose one it would be the freedom she now has as she no longer needs to be attached to dialysis 10 hours a night six nights a week.”

She said her daughter’s bones are still too weak and fragile to participate in any vigorous sports, but that she does enjoy a hip hop dance class she goes to on a Saturday which wouldn’t be possible without her transplant.

Rachel has been to the games for the past three years, in her first year she won a gold medal for the obstacle race and a bronze medal for the ball throw, on the second year she won a silver medal for the tug of war and last year a bronze medal for the tug of war.

Her mother said: “She only took part in the tug of war and ball throw last year as she broke her leg while playing on a trampoline. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Professor Savage and all the staff from the renal unit in the Royal Victoria Hospital for the care and attention they have shown before, during and after Rachel’s transplant.”

Paddy O’Neill said he had received two kidney transplants after suffering IgA nephropathy — where protein builds up within the kidney and damages it — one from a donor who died in a car crash and another from his brother.

He began taking part in the Transplant games after his consultant got him involved.

He said: “I didn’t know I’d need a transplant — it was a shock to me, but the main focus of these games is to increase awareness and I’d ask anyone who can to support all the families involved.”

He urged people to join the donor register, pointing out: “The spirit has left the body, and you can help six or more people by donating.

“There are no pockets in the shroud.”

Belfast Telegraph