COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A local woman is heading to Australia Thursday to compete as a swimmer in the World Transplant Games, which is described as the Olympics for those impacted by organ transplants.
Carol Fitzsimons got a kidney transplant at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in October 2000.
She had been suffering from kidney failure since she was a teenager and received a new kidney at 36 years old from a friend who decided to be her living donor.
“With me, I kind of just kept going, just kept swimming, so to speak, even when I didn’t feel well just because I had to,” Fitzsimons said of her life before her transplant. “I had to make a living. I had to survive.”
After her transplant, Fitzsimons gained weight from the number of drugs she was on. She started swimming around two miles a day and hasn’t stopped in the two decades since. Her doctor was the one who mentioned the World Transplant Games, and Fitzsimons was immediately interested in being involved.
Fitzsimons has now been to 11 World Transplant Games, and she is the only Ohioan represented. She is competing in five races this year, including the 400-meter freestyle and 50-meter fly.
“I work really hard at it,” she said. “I’ve been in the pool five to six days a week for the past 22 years. If I get to win a medal, I’m super excited, but as I get older, it’s harder.”
Organ recipients, living donors, and family members of deceased donors can participate, and people come together from all corners of the earth. They are brought together by the one thing they all have in common: organ donation.
“It’s so cool because even though everyone has different beliefs, different lifestyles, whatever, we’re all there for one reason and that’s to unite and the celebration of life,” Fitzsimons said.
The World Transplant Games show the significance of checking that box on your license to become an organ donor. Many of the athletes competing have been on their deathbeds, but they’ve been saved by someone’s selfless act, Fitzsimons said.
“I think they have something to offer the world that we all really need right now and that’s hope,” she said.
The World Transplant Games are happening April 15-21. To learn more about the games, click here.