A symbolic baton celebrating organ donation is travelling around the country in the lead-up to the World Transplant Games which take place in NewcastleGateshead between 17 and 23 August 2019. The Games are a celebration of a second chance of life for over 2,500 participants and shine the spotlight on the importance of organ donation in saving and enhancing lives.
The baton relay started at Royal London Hospital on Monday 12 August before travelling to other transplant centres at Oxford Magdalen College, Churchill Hospital Oxford, the Children’s Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Manchester Royal Infirmary and St James’s University Hospital Leeds, the Angel of the North, and finally NewcastleGateshead.
‘Tom’s Baton’ was created in memory of Tom Wilson, a talented hockey player who lost his life in December 2015 in an accident at the age of 22. After his death, his parents Lisa and Graham agreed for his organs and tissue to be donated. Lisa, who also lost Graham eight weeks later to a brain tumour and sepsis, has since become a passionate campaigner for organ donation.
Recipients of Tom’s organs were at the start of the relay and will also be there at the finish. 6-year-old Fatima Mirza, who received part of Tom’s liver, started the relay at Royal London Hospital and Gordon Paw, the recipient of Tom’s heart, will be in Newcastle to welcome the baton at the end of its journey.
The family commissioned a sculpted baton being held by two bronze hands which represents giving and receiving the gift of life that organ donation provides. The baton was originally presented to Transplant Sport at the British Transplant Games 2019 in Newport. Transplant Sport is the largest UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of the life-saving benefits of organ donation and the importance of staying healthy and active post-transplant. Together with daughter Pippa, Lisa also lit the Donor Family Flame at the British Transplant Games, Transplant Sport’s flagship event, earlier this summer.
Lisa said: "My daughter Pippa and I are really proud of the decision Tom made to become an Organ Donor. Tom's legacy is the gift of life and hope he gave to the 50 people who received his organs and tissue transplant. 'Tom's Baton' reflects that beautifully.
"It symbolises the passing on of something precious and because it is a relay baton it has a link to sport that Tom and his dad loved so much.
"We know it will inspire others, not only competitors, organisers and volunteers at the Games but also those who are interested in following Tom's example and becoming donors and talking to their friends and families about why it is so important."
Raj Thuraisingham, Consultant in Renal Medicine and Transplantation at the Royal London Hospital, said: “Transplantation allows patients to return to near normal life, and this is clearly shown in their ability to return to normal physical activity. There is nowhere that this is more clearly shown than at the Transplant Games. These events really showcase what transplantation can do for individuals, returning them back to their full potential. We are all fully aware of the benefits of exercise on our physical, mental and psychological health. The patients who take part in the Transplant Games epitomise this and are also an inspiration for patients with all forms of kidney disease”.
Graham Wylie, chair of the World Transplant Games NewcastleGateshead 2019, said: “It’s inspiring to see two recipients of Tom’s organs starting and finishing the baton relay that will work its way up through transplant centres around the county. Tom’s baton symbolises the power of organ donation and will inspire more people to have conversations around donation and make their choices known.
“We can’t wait to welcome participants and their supporters to the region next week for what will be an inspiring celebration of human courage and physical fitness.”
For more information on the World Transplant Games 2019 and how to get involved visit www.worldtransplantgames.org