I felt almost airborne as I rounded the turn in Lane 7 and accelerated toward the finish of the 200-meter sprint at the Transplant Games on a humid, sultry Orlando evening a little more than two years after my kidney transplant. My lungs were clear, the other runners far behind, and I was exhilarated as I breathed deeply of the damp air.
At this moment I knew more fully than ever what my transplant had given me. Not a medal. When I finished, there were still two heats to go, and three men running in them had bested me in the 100 meters a few hours earlier. So I didn’t know if the strongest run I had made since high school would even put me among the leaders. But as I walked off the track and flopped on the infield grass to stretch my cramped hamstring muscles, I didn’t care much about that. I felt thrilled, yet it wasn’t the thrill of victory.
This was the thrill of renewed life, of feeling well and understanding everything that led to this moment. It was a sense of utter certainty that this transplant would last. If I could run like that, there was no way my new kidney could ever fail.
It was a feeling I could never have experienced without the Games. And it was something I could share with my donor, who ran to me afterward breathlessly asking "Did we win?"
The answer was "yes, we did." But our victory came from just being there, demonstrating to us and all the world the power of a transplant to let me do something I previously could only dream about.
That's the Transplant Games: Dream fulfillment for recipients, donors and donor families. A chance to demonstrate the transformational power of transplants and a chance to share exhilarating moments with thousands of others feeling the same sense of a miracle realized.