By Shelley Steeves Senior Correspondent
MONCTON – Hundreds of athletes arrived in Moncton this week for competition, camaraderie and to celebrate a second chance at life during the 7th bi-annual Canadian Transplant Games. The games are held to increase awareness of organ and tissue donation.
Five years ago, 16-year-old Braden Gendron was checking into a Toronto hospital for a double lung transplant. This week, he’s signing up to compete in what for him, feels like an Olympic event.
“Before the transplant I couldn’t play any sports. I couldn’t run I couldn’t do anything physical,” he said.
His mother, Jen Gendron said Braden was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension at only five years old.
“There was very few treatments for the disease so at the end he was on IV medication and there was really no other way to treat the disease and transplants was our only other option,” Gendron said.
Now, post-transplant, the hometown boy from Hampton, N.B. is strong and healthy enough to compete in a whole list of events, including track and lacrosse.
Which never would have been possible without his new lungs.
“I can do whatever I want now.”
Event organizer Mark Black says hundreds of organ transplant recipients from across Canada will compete in a variety of sports including tennis, swimming, bowling, and even old fashioned Maritime washer toss. It’s the first time the event is being held in the Maritimes.
Ten sporting events will take place in venues throughout Greater Moncton until Saturday, July 12, along with some fun family events. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend and cheer on the athletes competing in their events.
“It’s an opportunity for people to meet other people who have gone through similar things and to have camaraderie with people who get what they’ve been thought,” Black said.
Gendron hopes the games will also help create awareness for organ donation.
Four thousand Canadians are waiting for organ or tissue transplants. About 200 will die waiting because there’s simple not enough organs to go around.