Journey to the U.S. Tranplant Games – Chapter 1

Jen (Team IL) and Paul (Team Michigan) at the Games in Pittsburgh

My name is Jen Klouse and I am a liver transplant recipient originally from Millington, Michigan and now living in the Chicago area.  On September 15th, I will be celebrating 12 years with my second chance at life and with my precious gift that I have been given.  I have often been asked the questions: “what was it like to go through what you went through?” or “do you ever wish you never had to have a transplant?” my answer is no.  Even though I was just hours away from losing my life, the good Lord above chose to leave me here to fulfill my purpose in life and to help spread awareness to others about the importance of organ donation.  With my experience of having a transplant, I have learned to never take one single breath for granted and to find meaning in everything I do.

I first became involved with competing in the U.S. Games after a meeting at Caribou Coffee in Bolingbrook, IL.  The meeting was for yPOD: Young Professionals for Organ Donation.  The group was facilitated by Joslyn Osten and Scott Meis from DLI.  I met a few other people there who had transplants as well, one of them in particular by the name of Jorie.  Jorie was talking about going to Australia in a couple of years to compete in “the world games” which I had no idea what she was talking about.  She began to tell me that every 2 years there are the World Transplant Games where athletes from all over the world represent their country and compete in athletic events.  The significance of these games was that every athlete competing has had a transplant!  She then began to tell me I should join Team Illinois for the U.S. Games that were to be held in Pittsburgh, PA.  From the moment after that conversation with Jorie, up to the first day I stepped one foot onto the ground of the airport in Pittsburgh I was starting to understand why I had the transplant.  I can guarantee you I will not miss the U.S. Games or World Games from this point on.

My experience with the U.S. Games in Pittsburgh in 2008 was one of the most incredible, life changing experiences I have ever had.  To be in a room with thousands of other people that have gone through a similar experience that you have gone through is pretty amazing.  I think one of my favorite parts of the Games was at the opening ceremonies where each state comes out waving to the crowd; each state being so different, yet the amazing part of it was we were all there for the same purpose.  The people I met, the stories that were shared and the events that took place, such as the Donor Recognition Ceremony, are something you can’t really describe in words.  The feeling you have when you are there is something so incredible, something so powerful.  I urge you to bring a box of Kleenex with you, as you will be touched, especially when the donor families are recognized and walk out onto the floor.

As my journey to Madison continues, I will be posting blog entries along the way to share with you how I am preparing for the games and what is going on with Team Illinois!

– Jen

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2 Responses to Journey to the U.S. Tranplant Games – Chapter 1

  1. nickurig says:

    You can also follow Steve’s blog as he prepares for the U.S. Games as well: http://stevebaum.wordpress.com/bauming-madison/
    -Nick

  2. Harvey Mysel says:

    The following was written after the 2008 Transplant Games:

    I was in Pittsburgh to participate in the bi-annual Transplant Olympics. These events draw about 6,000 attendees, with over 1,600 athletes. It is so inspiring to participate and to see these individual’s push themselves to the limit in the equivalent to the Olympic summer events. While the winners certainly get accolades (and Gold, Silver and Bronze medal recognition), it is the struggling athlete that actually draws the most from the tremendous crowds. Many athletes, especially the ones finishing last react as if they’ve won the Gold Medal. The crowds’ applause confirms their accomplishment. More than any other competition I have experienced, fellow athletes and spectators show tremendous support and encouragement to all that participate. Many are there just in recognition of their thriving health as a result of someone (or some family’s) self-less organ donation.

    The aspect that I did not fully appreciate until I experienced it first hand was the deep and sustained “connection” that the thousands of donor family members have to the games. Many attend these events as a means to celebrate and honor their loved one’s lives. Some come to cheer on the athlete who has received a life saving organ from a loved one…truly a moving site. There is a tremendous focus and well deserved recognition given to these families and the difficult gift of life decision they had to make during a time of such personal loss. The Living Donors are also duly recognized for their gift of love.

    The goal of the games is to encourage transplant recipients to stay strong and live life to the fullest. The other key purpose of this event is to focus attention on the need for donations. Throughout the program, the message that over 100,000 people are still waiting for a life saving transplant is clear, and the call to action for all of us is paramount.

    I was honored to attend and participate in the Games and look forward to doing so again in 2010. The Games will be in Madison, WI, just a short drive, which should allow many more recipients, donors and donor family members and supporters to attend.

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