The Transplant Games of America is a multi-sport competition held annually to promote the message of organ, eye and tissue donation. This year, throngs of organ, eye and tissue recipients, living donors, donor family members, and concerned citizens will flock to Cleveland, Ohio to compete for medals and bragging rights and cheer on their loved ones and friends as they compete. There are competitions for every age group and physical fitness level including tennis, swimming, foot races, darts, and cornhole (just to name a few!) While the majority of the competitions at the Transplant Games are athletic events, the committee has steadily been including events that appeal to participants interested in competitions that don’t require an extensive amount of physical exertion but do require a tremendous amount of skill.
One such event is Lyrics for Life, a musical competition that will premiere this year. The event is the brainchild of Dan Palmer, an entertainer since age 16 and a recent liver recipient. Dan was inspired to pitch the idea to the committee after speaking with friends at Sierra Donor Services, based in northern California.
“At the beginning of my liver disease journey, I volunteered with them by performing at their volunteer appreciation events and producing videos for public awareness efforts,” said Palmer.
Lyrics for Life will have two rounds. The first round will allow all competitors to sing their individual songs. Judges will then choose six finalists from the first round to compete in the second and final round, where competitors will sing two songs. The winners will be selected based on their performances in the second round.
“I see this event as a natural way for transplant recipients and living donors to touch and inspire others even as their own hearts are being touched,” said Palmer. “Music, and really all of the arts, speaks to people’s hearts.”
The general public is welcome to view and cast their votes for the talented singers competing via this link.
Palmer hopes the new artistic competition will move people to action: registering as organ, eye and tissue donors. He feels it’s a tremendous opportunity.
“There is nothing greater we can do than to save someone else’s life … leaving a legacy that will carry on well beyond our years.”
This will be Palmer’s first time attending the Games. He is excited to travel to Cleveland and be surrounded by people who understand and can relate to what he’s been through.
“I want to see everything!” said Palmer. “I received my liver transplant on June 2, 2015 so I’ll be celebrating the fact that I’m still alive at the Games!”
For more information about Lyrics for Life and the Transplant Games of America, visit the official website.
There are many myths pertaining to the subject of organ and tissue donation. Some are so deeply ingrained in a person’s psyche, he or she dismisses fact and logic and holds fast to unsupported claims; however, there is one fact that cannot be dismissed: if organ donation did not exist, thousands of people would die.
As it stands, 22 Americans die daily because of the lack of available organs for transplant. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 25% of those who died awaiting a transplant in 2015 were African American. Currently, 30% of patients waiting for a lifesaving transplant are African American, and unfortunately, the wait time for many of these individuals is greater than their white counterparts.
Debra Cason is one of the thousands of individuals listed for an organ transplant. Cason led an active life prior to her kidney failure diagnosis. She traveled, worked full time, and helped her youngest son transition from high school to college. However, after almost eight years of waiting for the right match, she is no longer able to live the life she once enjoyed.
“As a kidney patient, I suffer with bouts of anemia and low energy levels,” said Cason. “I have been unable to secure full time employment and travel at will.
Thousands of other African Americans throughout the country are waiting for the chance to reclaim the lives they once had. If more people made the decision to become an organ donor, the wait times would be reduced. “
“We look for genes that are a match in the same race,” said Dr. Mayra Lopez-Cepero, Senior Vice President and Director of the LifeLink® Transplantation Immunology Laboratory.
Lopez-Cepero and her staff work to make sure the best matches are made between an organ donor and recipient.
“The majority of African Americans are in blood group B. This is also the least common of the blood in the population. This is one of the reasons African Americans may wait longer for a transplant.”
“For those who have not decided to become an organ donor, I would encourage them to get all the knowledge they can about organ donation and realize how many people would benefit with such a selfless gift of life,” said Cason. “I have always been a person who believed that all things are possible no matter how bad it seems,” she continued. “I have faith in God who makes things possible, and I believe that some good will come to my situation.”
Signing up to be an organ donor is simple. One can declare their wishes when renewing or receiving a driver’s license/identification card at the DMV or online at www.registerme.org. Organ donation occurs after death and one donor could save up to eight lives. One “yes” can make a difference.
FACTS ABOUT ORGAN DONATION:
An annual physical revealed that Evelyn Colon had Hepatitis C. After several years of living life with no complications, she slowly began to feel ill and was informed that she would need a liver transplant.
Evelyn remained on the transplant waiting list for two years before receiving her life-saving liver transplant.
Since receiving her transplant she has been a huge advocate for donation by donating hundreds of hours of her time to educating her community about the great need for everyone to sign up to be an organ donor. She has also established a mentoring program at her local transplant center where she visits patients awaiting a transplant and offers them encouragement and hope!
On June 24, 1984, Rodney Ford and Syrita Walton made a vow before God, their family and friends to unite in the bonds of marriage and remain together “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Neither of them could have predicted that 25 years later those vows would be put to the test.
Syrita felt fine in 2009, when she went to the doctor for her annual checkup. Unfortunately, her lab results showed that her kidneys were not fine. She didn’t know it, but she was about to join the thousands of people nationwide who are in need of a kidney transplant.
The topic of donation and transplantation wasn’t a foreign concept to the Ford family. “My husband rode a bicycle across the USA seven times with the Five Points of Life (an organization that educates students throughout the United States of the five ways to share life with others through the donation of blood, apheresis, marrow, organ and tissue). For several years, he provided education about organ & tissue donations before the need for a kidney arrived at our own doorstep.”
Armed with this knowledge, when the time came for family members to be checked, Rodney was first in line and as fate would have it, he was a match! So on March 25, 2010 Rodney gave Syrita the ultimate gift, one of his kidneys. “I’m glad I was a match,” says Rodney. “In the past five years, I have been able to see her dance, laugh and play with her grandchildren.”
This Valentine’s Day, the Fords are celebrating 30 years of love. “This year, we will celebrate Valentine’s Day on a road trip together then dance the night away at the Good Deeds International Ball in Atlanta,” said Syrita. To the thousands seeking companionship this year, Syrita offers the following advice: Trust in God. Rodney is a man fashioned by God. He is not a perfect man, so naturally he and I disagree at times. We love and respect each other immensely and I will always be thankful he gave me a better quality of life as my kidney donor.”
The Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation (AMAT) will celebrate Black History Month by recognizing an extraordinary woman and man who have made an indelible mark on the field of organ and tissue donation and transplantation, and highlight the need for organ donation and transplants within the African American community, which is disproportionately at risk for end-stage organ failure.
Dr. Velma Scantlebury is the first Black female transplant surgeon in the United States. Since beginning her work in the field of transplantation in 1989, she has performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants, while educating the public about organ donation and encouraging more minorities to become donors. She is extremely passionate about her work in the community, and has vowed that she will not be satisfied until “the number of African Americans donating equals the number that needs to be transplanted.”
The hard work by these African American trailblazers has motivated individuals throughout the country to share the message of organ donation within countless Black communities because the need is so great.
Dr. Clive O. Callender is equally passionate about educating minority communities about organ and tissue donation. He founded the Howard University Transplant Center and the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP). He has shaped the dialogue among some of the nation’s most promising medical students and professionals as a professor at Howard University.
Dr. Callender has presented at more than 1,000 meetings highlighting organ donation throughout the United States, authored dozens of scientific publications on transplantation, and educated countless individuals in his community about the need for an increase of Black organ donors.
The hard work and determination exhibited by these African American physicial trailblazers has motivated individuals throughout the country to share the message of organ and tissue donation within countless Black communities because the need is great:
Signing up to be an organ donor is easy! Simply log on to DonateLife.net, click the “Register Now” button, choose your state from the map and sign up on that registry. In less than five minutes you can join millions of other Americans who have vowed to save lives by becoming an organ and tissue donor. Your “yes” can make a difference in the lives of many. Sign up today and be sure to talk to your loved ones about your decision.