Tag Archives: deceased donor

The 2016 Transplant Games In 3 Words: Joy, Inspiration, Resilience

Every year, the Transplant Games provides an opportunity for transplant recipients and donors to come together to celebrate the gift of life. This year’s Games were held in Cleveland, Ohio from Friday, June 10 to Wednesday, June 15. The Games included over 6,000 registered participants. We interviewed a few HelpHOPELive families who attended and competed in the Games. Here’s how they described the experience.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

Bill Soloway, 1-year post transplant, attended the Transplant Games


What made you want to attend the Transplant Games this year?


Transplant recipient Liz Casperite: I can’t remember the first time I heard about the Games, but I always knew I wanted to attend them after I received a transplant. In order to attend, you need to be at least nine months post-transplant with a doctor’s permission. The cutoff this year was October 1 and my transplant was on September 17, so we just qualified! Cleveland was my first Games, but it won’t be my last.

Liz’s living kidney donor Maria Weaver: As soon as I heard about the Games from my recipient, even before the transplant, I wanted to go! It sounded like an amazing event and a chance to keep exploring my new identity as a living donor while meeting more people in the transplant community.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

The Games took place in Columbus, Ohio in 2016

Transplant candidate Pat McEntee: I first heard about the Transplant Games about a year ago when I met some members of Team Ohio at an event in Columbus. I decided I would attend as either a participant or a supporter. My wife, Amy, and I went as supporters this year and just enjoyed the event, meeting people, sharing our story and listening to others’ stories. The fact that the event was in Cleveland near my transplant center, Cleveland Clinic, was an added bonus just in case I got “the call.” I hope to be able to attend AND participate in the Games in 2018.


What are some of the things you saw at the Games that made you glad you went?


Liz: My donor and I spent time watching track and field and saw some amazing athletes who brought everyone joy and inspiration. There was a woman who ran her first 100-meter dash with the aid of her cane, and a 2-year-old whose dad had to hold him back until it was time to run. These athletes made me see there is nothing I won’t be able to do with my new kidney. My donor and I participated in donor/recipient bowling. We were teamed up with a donor mom and her friend. We had so much fun being terrible bowlers.

Maria: It made me happy to see all the donor families wearing pins for their loved ones and talking about their experiences. Many were able to meet their recipients at the Games and it made me happy to hear and see their relationships. I loved seeing the smiles of the last place finishers as they plugged along the track and the crowd went wild for them! It was all about being there. It was a privilege to talk to people in the “quarter-century club” who had had their transplanted organs for 25 years or more. We heard so many stories.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

“We heard so many stories,” said living donor Maria Weaver

Pat: I was extremely moved by some of the stories I heard both during the Opening Ceremonies and just in talking to people I met. In watching the Games, I was impressed with the camaraderie that took place. After a hard-fought win in a close basketball game, Team Louisiana embraced members of Team Kentucky. It was nice to see people compete hard and win or lose with class.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

“I was impressed with the camaraderie,” said Pat McEntee


Do you think events like the Transplant Games make a difference?


Liz: The Transplant Games made a difference for me because I was able to meet recipients who have had their transplant for more than 40 years and get their advice. I was inspired to train for more events for the next Games. The community was also inspiring. We told our story to many people – Uber drivers, waiters, really anyone we met. The manager of an ice cream shop was so inspired that she volunteered for five hours at the Games the day after we met her!

Maria: I DO! I felt like I was in a protective bubble full of all of the most amazing people in the country. People who were handed crappy circumstances or fear or tragedy let it shape them into strong people full of love. The strength and grace I saw…wow! Puts things in perspective. I posted a lot of pictures and stories to Facebook and I got comments from people who said they felt the love and inspiration just from seeing them. It helped them to see this during a week in which the news was full of tragedy. I came away completely inspired to go back to the Games in 2018, meet up with the amazing people I met and became close to so fast, and do more athletic events!

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

“I was inspired,” said transplant recipient Liz Casperite

Pat: I feel like people would come and enjoy themselves even if there was no competition at all. I think everyone realizes that the prize of additional life is already won, so what happens in the Games is inconsequential. Everyone still tries hard and competes hard for whatever reasons they choose, whether it is to honor their donor, celebrate the fact that they can participate or just to have fun.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

Win or lose, “the prize of additional life is already won”


Is there an emotional element to the Games for you?


Liz: The Games was a very emotional experience. The tribute to living and deceased donors was amazing. I was very touched by the stories of the donor families we met over the week. I was inspired by a mom who donated the organs of three of her murdered sons and was still positive and spreading the word about organ donation. As recipients, we are all helping to keep their loved ones alive. We made some great new friends that I can’t wait to see at the next Games.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

“The Games was a very emotional experience,” said Liz Casperite

Maria: I was on a high all week. I’ve never bonded so quickly with strangers. I talked to everyone I could, and hugged, and teared up, and high-fived them. It was really hard to leave, especially leaving my buddies from far away who I likely won’t see for two years. Being there with my recipient and getting to tell our story to people and walk in the 5K with her was priceless.

Pat: I was surprised at how emotional the event was. Even at times when I didn’t expect it, I found myself tearing up. The emotions of joy and laughter were also present throughout the days we spent there.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

Pat and wife Amy experienced a range of intense emotions


How would you sum up the experience in 3 words?


Liz: Inspiring. Fun. Heartbreaking.

Maria: Love. Resilience. Celebration.

Pat: Joy. Camaraderie. Compassion.

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What did the Transplant Games mean to you this year?


About The Transplant Games


The Transplant Games is open to athletes with any level of skill with games ranging from cornhole and basketball to track events and swimming. The Games welcomes first-time participants and veterans of all ages, like 4-year-old kidney transplant recipient Cooper, who finished the 23-meter dash grinning. The Games includes donors and recipients from all 50 states as well as multiple countries. There are 21 medal competitions in total and all are free and open to the public.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

The Transplant Games are open to donors and recipients of all ages

Did you participate in the Games this year? How was the experience? Tell us about it on Facebook.

Touched By Transplant: When I Met My Heart Donor’s Family

John “Skeeter” Coleman received a heart transplant in February 2016. Here’s what happened when he sought out the family of the man who donated his heart.

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As soon as I was well enough after my heart transplant, I went to visit my donor’s family. It was the biggest emotional rush I have ever had in my life aside from the birth of my children.

Skeeter listens to his new heart

Skeeter listens to his new heart

Hospitals typically do not allow direct contact between donor families and recipients for a period of time after a transplant. I mailed a letter to my donor’s family through my hospital. As soon as I sent the letter, the hospital provided me with a letter the donor’s family had written back in December. This is what it said:

This is a Christmas card to you from me and my family. My husband’s name was Paul. He was a great outdoorsman who loved the landscape and loved the military. He was a great father and husband for 22 years. We loved him. I’m just hoping you can appreciate his organ, whichever one you got.

I sent a copy of the letter to my daughters and son. They got on the Internet and started researching. Sure enough, my daughter managed to find Theresa, Paul’s wife, on Facebook. She accepted our Friend Request and got to learn more about me and my HelpHOPELive campaign. That’s when I turned to my daughter and said, “Let’s go find them.” And that’s what we did.

We met Theresa and two of her three sons at the Jiffy Mart in Chester, Texas, a town of just 312 people located a 4-hour drive from our hometown of Euless. Theresa said, “Would you like to go with us to the cemetery?” I told her I would love to.

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Skeeter visits his heart donor’s grave

At the cemetery, I got down on one knee and started rubbing my hands through the dirt and talking to Paul. All these words were coming out and all these feelings. All these tears started flowing and dripping in the dirt. I don’t know how long I was there. They had to help me stand back up, because I didn’t have the strength to get up on my own.

I asked if I could take them out to lunch. At a café, Theresa introduced me to all of her friends. We had catfish, fresh vegetables, good old country cooking while we talked. We talked about those boys’ daddy and what a great man he was. Paul’s best friend was there, and we talked to him about all the people who were recipients. Two people got kidneys, one person got lungs, one person got a liver, one person got part of his spine and I got his heart.

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Skeeter with his heart donor’s wife and children

After lunch, Theresa invited me back to their house. She showed me all kinds of pictures of Paul. After a few more hours, we made the four-hour drive back to Euless. I was exhausted.

We stayed in touch after that. I’d like to get back together with them again. They have been a great encouragement and source of hope to me. I hope I can be the same for them.


touched by transplant fullNeed help fundraising for a transplant? Start a fundraising campaign today at helphopelive.org. Keep up with Skeeter on his HelpHOPELive campaign page.

In The News: Mom Recovers From Five-Organ Transplant

Looking at family pictures, you might assume that Melinda Nelson is a typical wife and mother of three. Beneath the surface, her story is anything but ordinary. In September, Melinda underwent a life-changing five-organ transplant to combat a rare illness that made it impossible for her to eat or drink without the assistance of a feeding tube.

Melinda Nelson transplant HelpHOPELive

Melinda is a wife and mother of three.

Melinda was born with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIP). The disorder lead to inefficient intestinal contractions, which made ordinary digestion and nutrition impossible for her body to maintain. By age 38, she was unable to draw any nutrition from food orally, and nightly intravenous treatments became her sole source of nutrition.

CIP was breaking down her health and diminishing her body’s ability to fight back. Melinda knew she would need a major breakthrough to remain in the lives of her “three babes,” 11-year-old Chad, 7-year-old Grace, and 6-year-old Hannah. A high-risk multi-visceral transplant – of the liver, stomach, intestine and pancreas – became her only hope.

Melinda had been fundraising with HelpHOPELive for less than a year when she got the call for her transplant. Thanks to the donations made in her honor, Melinda was able to afford the 1,821-mile journey from her hometown in Idaho to a specialized transplant center in Indiana where she received the gift of life.

Melinda Nelson after transplant HelpHOPELive

Fundraising enabled Melinda to relocate for a lifesaving transplant.

“I can’t even imagine giving a gift like that, because that donor didn’t just give me a second chance, he gave my kids their mom,” said Melinda in an interview with KTVB 7. Melinda will spend the holidays recovering from the procedure and celebrating the possibility of a brighter and healthier future.

(Meridian mom recovering after five-organ transplant)