Blenheim Palace set to host cycling in transplant and dialysis games
Around 500 athletes from around 25 countries were welcomed to Oxford at the start of the Transplant and Dialysis Games.
Over the next week, the games will give transplant recipients the chance to compete, connect and socialize.
The games were founded in 2000 and are held every two years in cities around the world.
The event was kicked off by a parade of athletes from across Europe around the Sheldonian Theatre.
After the opening ceremony, the group traveled by pleasure boat from Folly Bridge to Radley College which hosts some of the events.
A highlight of the Games will be cycling at Blenheim Palace on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 August.
Dr Paul Harden, chairman of Transplant Sport, which organizes the games, was instrumental in bringing the games to the UK for the very first time.
Since 2003, he has operated a state-of-the-art young adult transplant service in Oxford.
He said: “These have been incredibly difficult years for transplant recipients and dialysis patients in particular and many have experienced fear and isolation due to the need to protect themselves.
“We are delighted to be able to organize the European Transplant and Dialysis Games in 2022 and to invite the transplant and dialysis community from across Europe to come together in Oxford, reconnect socially and make sports to help them stay active, something that is so important after the transplant.
Heather Carter, Director of Operations at Blenheim Palace, added: “Organ donation is such an important topic and we are proud to be doing our part to raise awareness and encourage people in Oxfordshire and beyond to talk about it. with their loved ones.”
Mike Oliver, who lives in Witney with his wife Gill, has been diagnosed with hereditary polycystic kidney disease, where cysts develop in the kidneys and as they grow the kidneys struggle to function properly until that they can no longer function at all.
In 2015 he received a kidney transplant after two years on the waiting list and will compete in the Blenheim cycling event.
Mr Oliver, 59, said: “I’ve been a cyclist since I was 15 and it’s a sport I’ve always enjoyed – I was a professional cyclist in the 80s and also took part in the Tour of Britain at the time.
“When I was diagnosed with kidney disease and had to go on dialysis, it was a big shock to the system.”
Mr Oliver’s condition is what’s known as a “late onset” condition, meaning you’re likely to go through life without symptoms until you reach your 40s or 50s.
The kidney team at Churchill Hospital in Oxford were monitoring his condition closely and were able to determine when he would reach what is known as ‘end-stage kidney failure’.
Mr Oliver’s father Robert and his aunt Elizabeth both received kidney transplants and his family believe his grandmother may have had the same condition.
He said participating in the Oxford Games will be a way of celebrating and honoring the transplant he was fortunate enough to receive.
Mr Oliver, who works as a retail analyst, said: “After the transplant I felt amazing and so different – you don’t realize how sick and hurt you are until you have had your transplant, you only deteriorate slightly from hour to hour and day to day.
“We have a fantastic nephrology unit at Churchill and I’m very grateful to them and how they took care of me.
“Two or three months after the transplant, I knew I wanted to get back in shape, lose weight and take care of my transplant, and I thought cycling would be the best way to do that – I had my bikes on I was training, so I knew I could do it.
“In June 2015 I started riding again and wanted to aim for something and give myself a goal.”
He ended up competing for the first time in the British Transplant Games 2016 and since then he has competed almost every year. This year he won gold in the road cycling race at Leeds.
He said: “I was quite surprised, considering how little training I had for it. I had covid in March and took my time to recover from it as it was affecting me quite badly so I didn’t do much training. I think I was able to catch up with a bit of experience.
“With the European Games in Oxford, it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. It’s going to be interesting because the course is quite high and low and I’ve never really been so good at climbing.
“The competition is going to be very strong and I have been training like crazy for the last four weeks.
“It’s an opportunity to say ‘look, after your transplant you can live a normal life, an active life’ – I got my transplant from a donor and I don’t know who that person was, but I think it’s important to honor his gift and make the most of it.