Jon Muldoon, Interior News
Bulkley Valley resident John Hols, who recently moved here after decades in Houston, has returned from Gothenburg, Sweden with a medal after competing in the 18th World Transplant Games. Hols joined over 1,000 athletes from over 50 countries at the Games in June. The Games are open to athletes of all ages who have undergone an organ transplant.
Hols underwent a double lung transplant a little over five years ago, and race walking was part of the physical rehabilitation program that helped him get into shape after the operation. He suffered from a condition called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, and working out was part of both the preparation for the operation, as well as the recovery process.
“If you want a transplant, you need to get into shape,” he said.
In Sweden, Hols said the range of athletes was impressive, both in age and ability.
“Some of the athletes were very limited because of their physical condition,” he said, but on the other hand, “I was 65 year olds high jumping.”
Although a cold kept him from race walking, Hols took part in several field events, and won a silver medal in the shot put for his 60 to 69 age category. He also finished fourth in the ball throw and fifth in javelin.
A big part of the experience for Hols was the inspiration found in seeing so many transplant patients thriving in one place. He’s planning to take part in next year’s Canadian Transplant Games in Calgary, and is already thinking about the 2013 World Transplant Games.
“I’m actually looking forward to travelling to South Africa,” he said.
Despite the silver medal and the whole experience of international competition, however, he said he competed mainly for the opportunity to spread the word and encourage people to sign up to be organ donors. Without his transplant, Hols likely wouldn’t be here today. He still gets very emotional talking about the experience.
“It’s like someone saying, ‘Here, you’ve got a ticket. You’re allowed to keep living.’ It wasn’t too long ago my wife was pushing me around in a wheelchair, and I was on oxygen 24 hours a day,” he said.
Despite success stories like his, B.C. still has a chronic shortage of hearts, lungs, kidneys and livers for transplant, according to B.C. Transplant. As of mid-July, 147 transplants had been performed in 2011, while 409 potential recipients are still waiting for a donor. All the numbers and statistics boil down to one simple truth, however.
“There are people that don’t make it,” said Hols.
Less than a quarter of the population in the province is currently registered as an organ donor. To register, visit www.transplant.bc.ca, or call 1-800-663-6189.