27 September 2023  |  Sven Wardle  |  Posted in: , ,

Less than a year after receiving a liver transplant, Aaron Lawrence, a Richmond School student in Year 8, not only took part in the annual Westfield Health British Transplant Games, but came away with a silver medal in the 50m backstroke swimming event. This was an absolutely fantastic achievement for Aaron, not just because of the challenges associated with the transplant, but also because this was his first time in any sort of sporting competition.

Aaron was part of the Children’s Team from Leeds Children’s Hospital – the hospital that he has been visiting for treatment all of his life – also where he received his transplant. Over 40 transplant recipients from the hospital took part in the games, which were hosted in Coventry this year. The games have been running for over 40 years and the four day event attracts around 1000 transplant athletes and more than 1700 supporters.

The children and their families were asked to raise £300 each to contribute to the considerable expense of running and taking part in the games. Aaron’s family set themselves a target of £1000. They ended up raising well over this sum, with contributions form a wide range of people – including some from Richmond School after Aaron’s story was published on the school’s website and social media – thank you!

After the Opening Ceremony, Aaron took part in a number of events including the long jump, the obstacle race and the 50m backstroke in the pool. He performed brilliantly in all the events he entered and won a silver medal in the swimming. Mrs. Lawrence, Aaron’s mum said: “It was very overwhelming. It was an Olympic 50m pool – exactly like the Olympics, and there were over 200 people watching!”

One of the final events was the Donor Run – an event where both recipients of transplants take part, but also members of donor families. This was a fun event, with people dressing up in all sorts of costumes – Aaron was particularly impressed by the Minions and the bananas! The run was also a very emotional event, with many of the donor families having lost loved ones to provide transplant recipients with the organs that in many cases have saved their lives.

The event also provided an opportunity for the families of other children with Aaron’s very rare metabolic condition – Ornithine Transcarbamylase Deficiency – to meet up. This had previously only happened online. Mrs. Lawrence said: “I knew of a few of the families but had never met them. In our team there were three children with the same disorder – which is amazing because it only affects one in 70,000 people!”

Four days of competitive sport, mass participation events, social gatherings and much more came to close with a Gala Dinner for all the participants.

Congratulations to Aaron for showing the determination and independence needed to compete in the games – this was a long way beyond his comfort zone and amazingly less than a year since his transplant. Well done also to Aaron, his family, plus the other competitors and their families for coming together and showing an incredible level of teamwork. This not just to make a success of the British Transplant Games, but also to make a success of supporting a child through the challenges of living with poor health before a transplant, receiving the transplant and the ongoing support that will be needed in the future.

We look forward to hearing about Aaron’s progress both at school in Year 8 and as a transplant athlete – Aaron has a cupboard full of official kit that he fully intends to wear at next year’s games in Nottingham!

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