by Mark Goh
They’ve gone through life-threatening illnesses and complicated surgeries. Yet today, they’re sprinting across finishing lines, spiking points, serving aces and scoring strikes.
From 28 July to 4 August, I had the chance with Team Singapore to compete against hundreds of athletes from around the world in Durban, South Africa, all competing at the highest possible level at The World Transplant Games 2013. What set us apart from many athletes is another triumph we’ve achieved in our lives - that of completing life-saving organ transplants.
For almost a week, transplant recipients competed in swimming, bowling, tennis, volleyball and track and field, to name a few sports, in the hope of winning medals for their country. Team Singapore walked away proudly with 14 medals as 40 countries took part.
I participated in the 100m and 200m heats, coming in third and 10th respectively. I may not have qualified, but being there was a big triumph for me.
In 2010, after having such an active life in sports, I had to go undergo a kidney transplant. I wasn’t sick often, but the constant trips to the dialysis centre and being on the treatment made me lethargic. I didn’t even want to do the simplest of tasks in my life, let alone run.
I was fearful of the operation, but my faith in God made me feel at peace. The operation was a success and remains so today, giving me a second chance in life to keep at sports.
Just two months after my operation and armed with a new sense of confidence, I was back to training. And two months before the games, I was invited by Singapore’s national athletics team to train with them.
Being in Durban was a humbling experience and a cultural eye opener, meeting athletes and fellow transplant patients from Argentina to Thailand, from African nations to European countries. We exchanged jerseys, shared our experiences, broke bread at the dinner table together and danced the night away at the closing night’s gala. Our bonds through our experiences transcended language and nationality.
With all of our collective second chances in life as transplant patients, that short moment in time in Durban felt as if we had known each other for a lifetime.