A team of young transplant recipients have won a record-breaking number of medals at this year’s British Transplant Games.
Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s team struck gold once again at this year’s event, which took place on home soil in Birmingham, taking away an incredible 114 medals and the title of Best Children’s Team for the 22nd year running.
The 57-strong team, known as ‘Team BCH’ or ‘Birmingham’s Courageous Heroes’, was the largest ever for the leading paediatric hospital, with children and young people aged three to 17 competing in a huge variety of events from tennis to team swim relays and mini marathons to obstacle courses.
Each of these special youngsters has undergone a variety of transplant operations at the hospital, including liver, kidney and small bowel.
Eight-year-old William Swan Dennis is one such transplant recipient who took home four medals from this year’s games.
William was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer when he was just five-months-old. After expert surgeons established that they were unable to remove the tumour, he was placed on the waiting list for a vital liver transplant.
After a months of waiting, a suitable liver was found and at 10-months-old, William underwent a transplant operation performed by the specialist team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, part of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
Seven years on, William’s health has gone from strength to strength, competing in his second Transplant Games this year. He’s already racked up quite a collection, with two silver and two gold medals in five-a-side football and table tennis, to add to the silver and bronze he won at the games last year.
William’s father Ric Dennis, a Prison Officer, was there with William’s mother Angela, sisters Lucie, Emily and Annabelle and grandparents Philip and Gillian Dennis and Tom and Sandra Swan, to cheer him and the rest of the team on at this year’s games. He said:
“These were the second games we’d been to and they were the best yet. Seeing William with his medals around his neck was an incredibly proud moment for us, knowing how much he’s overcome to get to where he is today.
“The importance of events like this isn’t lost on us. We were lucky find a suitable organ relatively quickly and we are so grateful to the donor and their family for being so selfless in what must have been a horrendous time for them.
“There are so many families who have to wait much longer and sometimes by the time something can be found it might be too late. Hopefully the success of this year’s games and those in the future will get the word out even more about how important it is to have the organ donation conversation, so that more of these life-saving operations can take place. Our family is just one whose story might have turned out very different if we hadn’t been as fortunate as we were when we needed it most.”
The triumphant team was also named Best Liver Team at this year’s games. Birmingham Children’s Hospital is a specialist centre for liver transplantation, with a world-leading liver unit set up by Professor Deirdre Kelly CBE in 1989.
Birmingham is one of the busiest centres in Europe for liver transplants with the number of increasing from just three in 1982, to now an average of four per week. The city recently celebrated its 5,000th liver transplant operation, all of which were carried out at both the Children’s Hospital and University Hospitals Birmingham. Since 1989, a one-year survival rate for children undergoing liver transplantations has increased dramatically from 40% to around 95% today.
Sara Clarke, Transplant Games Team Manager and Senior Specialist Neonatal Dietitian at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said:
“I’ve been involved in the Transplant Games since 2001 but I have to say that this year’s was the biggest and best yet and to have it hosted right here in Birmingham on home soil was brilliant. Our Birmingham Children’s Hospital team - which is backed by funding from our charity - was the largest ever to compete and we are so proud of each and every one of them.
“We had the privilege of winning Best Liver Team and the coveted Best Children’s Team for the 22nd year in a row, which is testament to how much these games mean to us, our children and young people and their families. We are so passionate about organ donation at Birmingham Children’s and have the honour of seeing the difference the gift of life makes every single day.
“But we’re all too aware of the difficult decision which many families face when a loved one dies which is why we are so incredibly grateful that they give so selflessly during exceptionally heart-breaking times. Hopefully these games will go some way towards highlighting the importance of having the organ donation conversation, to change even more lives.”
To find out more about organ donation or to sign up to the register, visit https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/.