With just three months to go until the World Transplant Games come to the North East and Sunderland, Kaylee-Ann Davidson-Olley is already counting down the number of sleeps.
Sunderland born Kaylee became the UK’s first successful transplant baby when she received a new heart in 1987 at just five months old.
Now 32, Kaylee has had a long and rewarding involvement with the World Transplant Games. This has seen her competing in five of the games and winning a gold medal in athletics in the 2013 games in Durban, South Africa.
Although her health means Kaylee isn’t able to take part, she has been asked to act as ambassador at this summer’s event and can’t wait for the games to be here.
Kaylee, who now lives in Houghton, said: “I’m really looking forward to it, I literally can’t wait, I’m counting down the sleeps to the games.
“Unfortunately I’m not competing because I haven’t been very well. But they have asked me to be an ambassador for the games which involves looking after people, speaking the media and supporting athletes from round the world and their families.”
Sunderland is hosting three of the World Transplant Games’ sporting events when the largest organ donation event in the world comes to the North East between 17-24 August.
While NewcastleGateshead is hosting the games, swimming, road cycling and ten pin bowling events are all happening in Sunderland, with spectators able to watch:
• Swimming – which has the second largest number of competitors in the games – at Sunderland Aquatic Centre
• Road cycling at Hetton Lyons Country Park
• Ten Pin Bowling at AMF Bowling Washington
The games are expected to attract around 1,300 participants, aged from four to 80+ from 61 countries.
And Kaylee for one is immensely proud that they are coming to the North East and to her home city.
She said: “We honestly didn’t think we would get them, but to have the World Transplant Games in the North East means the world to us. I’m really proud it’s here and to be able to show how amazing our city is.
“I think it will bring people together as well as hopefully focussing awareness on organ donation and encouraging more people to sign the organ donation register, especially when they see the huge impact it has around the world.
Fiona Brown, Executive Director of Neighbourhoods at Sunderland City Council said, Kaylee’s story is a real inspiration to others. She’s an excellent ambassador for the World Transplant Games.
“Like Kaylee, we’re very proud to be hosting three of The World Transplant Games’ sports in Sunderland this summer.
“This builds on the success of events like the National Cyclocross at Hetton Lyons Country Park in 2018 and the Tall Ships Races which brought in the region of 1.2 million visitors to the city last summer, the Airshow, the Illuminations and Festival of Light, and more recently the Leonardo exhibition which all contribute to Sunderland’s growing reputation as an events city.
“We hope lots of people will come along to watch the swimming, cycling and ten pin bowling events in Sunderland and be inspired by the athletes taking part to sign up to be organ donors.”
The purpose of the games is to raise public awareness and acceptance of organ donation and encourage people to sign up as organ donors and discuss their wishes with their loved ones.
At any one time there are around 5,900 people on the transplant waiting list and on average three people die every day who could have benefited from organ donation.
So what would Kaylee say to encourage people to sign up to organ donation? She said: “Talk to your family and make sure your next of kin knows what your wishes are.
“It’s a two minute conversation, say ‘I want to do this’ and make sure your next of kin knows your wishes because otherwise they could say it’s not happening. To me my donor left a legacy to me and my family and it’s part of them that lives on inside me.”
Anyone who hasn’t already done so can sign up the NHS Organ donor register at: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/.”