GBTAOT – Day 2

Travel

The second day of GB Transplant Athlete on Tour (GBTAOT – see what I did there?) started a little earlier for one of us than the other. Yes Mr ‘Jetlag doesn’t affect me’ Wiltshire, I’m looking at you! While Gareth was up and watching Netflix from about 2.30am, I managed a rather sweaty sleep until around 6.30am. With shared bathrooms in our hotel, mornings resembled a university’s hall of residence  – though I don’t know if it was entirely necessary for one man from another room to be stumbling around the corridors in just his pants!

We had tickets for the first crossing over to Alcatraz at 8.45am, and though originally were going to miss out this classic San Fran tourist attraction when still back at the planning stage, I’m glad we didn’t, and found the tour of the prisoner’s cells fascinating and harrowing in equal measure. The audio tour kept the crowds flowing along nicely, and we were done, dusted, and back on the boat to the mainland by 11am.

 

Once back at Pier 33, we walked around Fisherman’s Wharf to Pier 39, which resembled Cardiff Bay on steroids…with sea lions thrown in for good measure. Although pretty peckish by this time, we avoided the tourist trap restaurants and after walking around the pier for about half an hour, headed to eight AM – a small brunch spot just down from Fisherman’s Wharf that I’d seen recommended online. Although hot and stuffy inside the restaurant (a repeating theme of our first 24 hours in the city), our omelette was super tasty, and one portion was more than enough for us both to share.

 

Walking back to our hotel for a mid afternoon nap, we diverted to Lombard Street to ogle at the windy road that snakes down from Hyde Street to Leavenworth Street. We weren’t alone, and this surprising tourist attraction requires 4 traffic officers (2 at the bottom and 2 at the top) to keep traffic flowing and photo-taking pedestrians safe from cars.

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Dinner was at The Progress, where courses were brought out in random order and designed for sharing. One of the city’s best rated restaurants didn’t disappoint, and we sampled cucumber and trout salad, quail egg roti, chickpea dumplings and chicken meatballs.

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Still persevering with public transport, and with our outbound bus tickets still (apparently) good for the return leg back to our hotel, we contemplated heading out to a bar for all of 10 seconds. Before deciding that although jet lag has not quite beaten us, it’s probably time for bed. Because 8.30pm is definitely bed time. Nothing to do with jet lag. What jet lag? zzzzzzzzz………

GB Transplant Athlete on Tour – Day 1

Travel

It’s been a super busy year, juggling three jobs and training for the World Transplant Games, but the main thing that has kept me going was the thought of my September trip to the USA. Encompassing both west and east coasts of the States, with a little bit of Mickey Mouse thrown in for fun, it’s been 18 months in planning, and now we’re finally here!

It’s 7.45pm on Saturday (3.45am UK time) and jet lag is definitely beating us (correction – has already well and truly beaten Gareth who is fast asleep next to me). Our journey started at 1.25am with a National Express coach ride to Gatwick airport, getting us in just before 6am. With hand luggage only (saving us money for those internal domestic flights later on), and holiday itinerary in hand (because everyone has a holiday spreadsheet don’t they?!), we checked in and collapsed for a few hours in Gatwick’s No.1 Lounge (thank you free lounge pass from Amex!)

A row to ourselves on the plane to Oakland, California made a massive difference to our comfort levels – well, my comfort levels at least – allowing me to have several hours of sleep as I was able to lay flat out on the 11 hour journey.

I’m always a fan of using a city’s public transport system to save money while abroad, but even I felt tested by the non air-conditioned and not particularly cost-friendly BART system connecting Oakland with San Francisco. It didn’t help that we arrived in the middle of a searing heat wave (highs of 38 degrees), but to make matters worse, one of the main stations on our route was closed for maintenance, leading to extra walking, bus replacements and going out of our way to get back on track to getting into San Francisco. But, hey, we saved about $15 dollars on grabbing a taxi, so it must have been worth it?!?!? (conclusion – definitely not.)

Our hotel for the first two nights is The San Remo, a quaint 1900s hotel with small rooms and shared bathrooms, though the inconvenience of walking down the corridor to shower is more than made up by the fab original decor and general historical (well, historical for America) feel of the place. The lack of air conditioning, however, makes our room stiflingly hot, (that heat wave rearing its ugly head again), but you do get what you pay for…or rather, what you don’t for in our case, with this hotel being almost half the price of others in the local area.

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After a 30 minute nap in the sweat pit (our room as it will now be known), we went out for dinner, sharing a lasagne and flatbread at The Italian Homemade Company. All the praise for this informal eatery is well and truly worth it, and with only a 10 minute wait on a Saturday evening (ok – late afternoon, we were desperate to get back to sleep) and $15 for a delicious meal between us, I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the area.

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A walk around the few blocks near our hotel gave us a taster of what to expect over the next couple of days – hilly roads, far too cool for us bars, and beautiful skies. In the meantime, it’s now 8.15pm, and I expect I have an appointment with my jet lagged self at around 3am tomorrow morning, so time to get some sleep in the sweat pit. Wish me luck!

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The World Transplant Games – my reflections

Uncategorized

So a week has gone by since I competed at the World Transplant Games, and now I’m starting to feel a little bit more myself and less like a bus has run me over, I thought it would be good to reflect on the Games, and my performances on a whole.

Let’s start with the positives!

Four golds and two silvers is a pretty good haul, considering I competed in seven events, of which I only actually train for two of. I really enjoyed competing in the 100m and 4 x 100m (the two said events I train for); the 200m and 4 x 400m were always going to be tough considering I haven’t run either distance since the last World Games; the shot put would have been far more enjoyable if there weren’t 20 women in the competition, and it wasn’t right before the 100m; and competing in the long and high jump taught me that if I actually trained (or even practiced) for these events, I might actually be ok at them!

It was great to be surrounded by some brilliant GB athletes at the Games, including the fab relay ladies – Michelle Mitchell, Emma Hilton and Tracy Baker in the 4 x 100m, and Melissa Fehr, Marie Devine and Emma Hilton in the 4 x 400m.

My overriding feeling throughout the athletics, however, is how disappointing it was to be competing in what is supposed to be the epitome of global transplant sport, and how disorganised the competition was! The athletics started almost two hours behind schedule on the first day, leading to no one really knowing when they should be competing, or when they should be warming up. It probably didn’t help that the timetable hadn’t been finalised until 11pm the night before, but the fact the stadium wasn’t ready on time was pretty inexcusable. Results weren’t printed out, athletes had no idea whether they had made finals, and the athlete officials had clearly never started any level of competition higher than a school sports day. If we are to raise our profile within global sport, the first thing needed is to run the events correctly!

To reflect on my performances considering all the above, it wasn’t actually that bad. 12.8 in the 100m is pretty much what I’ve been running all season, and actually took almost a second off my own Championship Record (which I think are commonly known as World Records, but surely in the world of sport, World Records can be set at any time in or out of the World Games??); and 27.8 is acceptable in the 200m, but I can’t deny that running 3.5 seconds slower than my pre-transplant PB is pretty soul destroying. I’m determined to spend more time on my high jump and long jump these next couple of years, but I still have some unfinished business in the long jump, and with only one legal ‘safety’ jump in Malaga actually counting towards my silver medal, I’m already planning to enter an open competition in a few weeks to see a more true reflection of my (granted, completely untrained) long jumping is!

I do have to start considering how sustainable entering the World Games is, going forwards. For someone who only competes in athletics, I am able to compete week in, week out at competitions all round the UK or even just in South Wales if I so choose, for around £5 per event, and if competing for my club, for free. My races will be electronically timed, I’ll have a strong level of competition, and I know that the most behind schedule  these competitions are going to run is about 20 minutes, and that’s on a pretty bad day. The cost of entering the Games in Malaga, as well as flights, food and accommodation was over £2000 for both Gareth and myself to be there, and although supported by sponsors and my ever-generous mother, it was still an expensive trip.

In 2019, we’ll be having a home Games at Newcastle and Gateshead. When the British Games were held in Newcastle, it cost me around £130 for me to compete, and included a supporter’s pack for my husband, and two tickets to a gala dinner, so I’d be really disappointed if the costs were anywhere near the thousands of pounds required to compete in Spain…we shall see!!

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The World Transplant Games – they’re finally here!

Athletics

It’s the day before my first athletics event at the World Transplant Games, and I’m sitting in my hotel room with a range of emotions. Excited – to get started with the competition. Nervous – I have no idea what my competition will be like, and I’m massively under prepared for my jumping and throws events. Frustrated – the communication and organisation has been pretty poor, and we still don’t have a timetable for the event which starts tomorrow! Concerned – the track is so baked solid that it’s not 100% safe to run on, and we’ve been told there will be no shade on the track (hundreds of transplant athletes will be competing in 35 degree heat). And relieved – to have finally got here in one piece!!

The week so far has flown by, and Team GB have been doing amazing things across all events. Medals in the 5km road race, cycling, kayaking, swimming, bowling, squash….and more! Our hotel is a little out the way, and we’re sharing it with other holiday makers who are enjoying some lively music performances until late into the evening, but the food is good, the rooms are air conditioned and I can see the sea from my room – not too shabby!

Time to rest up, get my kit prepared and game face on!

A Trip to the Liver Clinic

Health

One of the pre-requisites to compete at the World Transplant Games is to prove you are fit and healthy enough. Hundreds of transplantees in one place… the organisers need to try and protect themselves a little!

Medical forms need to be signed by an organ transplant specialist, and competitors tend to tie this in with a regular visit to their transplant clinic. For me, this means a trip to the Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Clinic visits are an essential part of a transplantee’s after care. Even though my transplant was in Portugal, I was air-ambulanced back to Birmingham where I would continue to be looked after by the medical staff at the liver clinic there.

For the first few months after your transplant you are required to attend quite frequently. Considering I lived over 100 miles from Birmingham Queen Elizabeth, this wasn’t the easiest (or cheapest!) trip, but they say you can’t put a price on health!

The first few visits are spent with liver surgeons, and a transplant coordinator is on call 24 hours a day, but as the six month, and then the year post-transplant mark comes and goes, the appointments become less frequent, and the surgeons make way for liver consultants to take over your care.

I now tend to get the train to hospital. From Newport to the hospital, it’s an hour and 40, and just over £50 return.

I’ve got my appointment routine down to being pretty slick now:

  1. Walk into Birmingham QE’s large atrium area, trying to avoid picking up a sugar-filled ice smoothie from Costa
  2. Check in at my Outpatient’s area
  3. Take a seat, before being called into the Liver Outpatient’s wait area
  4. Get called into the nurse’s station to have weight and blood pressure monitored
  5. Wait…and wait….and wait to see the doctor (the shortest time has been ten minutes, but last time my consultant was flying solo, and I was sat for over an hour)
  6. Go and chat to the doctor, usually referring to my most recent blood test results. Luckily, as I haven’t had any issues with my new organ, these discussions have only ever been positive, and tend to be quite short. On my last visit, I also needed to get my medical forms signed, but I had filled these all in pre-visit, so it was still a pretty short visit. Receive a bunch of blood forms.
  7. Take a ticket, and wait for the phlebotomist to call you in. Hand over the blood forms, and offer up an arm. (I must have had over 200 blood tests/injections/infusions in my life, but I STILL hate needles)
  8. Pass by pharmacy on your way out to pick up another six months worth of tacrolimus (the drug that stops my body from rejecting its new organ).
  9. And that’s it! Head on back to the station, and repeat in six months time. (Birmingham utilises a fantastic online system called MyHealth, which allows you to log in and view all your blood tests that take place at Birmingham QE, as well as having an online record of any letters the doctors sent out. I find it really helps me understand what’s going on with my blood and my health, and there’s no need to ring up and pester receptionists for blood results – it’s my blood after all!)

 

18th March 2017 – GB Transplant Sport Training Day

Athletics

2017 seems to be galloping along at an alarming speed, and I was hoping to bring along some of that speed to the first GB Transplant Sport training day of 2017! This session was the second of three training days in the run up to the 2017 Malaga World Transplant Games, and as I was still recovering from my ulcerative colitis flare at the first session (which took place in September 2016), I was determined to make up for it and get stuck in at this session.

The training days start with information about the Games including any up to date information team management have about accommodation, event venues and activities.

Following the information there’s the opportunity to go over to the information ‘hub’, where GB members can receive further information on kit, physiotherapy, medical care and the all important sign in. Team members have to attend at least 2 of the three meetings to show they are in good physical shape and have all the information they need to get to Malaga and compete in one piece.

After this is the training, and the athletes make their way over to the University’s athletics track, and home of Coventry Godiva Harriers. GB Transplant multi-sport coach and youth worker Daley Cross led a group warm up before we split into our respective training groups.

After a great sprint training session, I helped the men prepare for the 4 x 100m relay by putting them through some relay drills. They have plans to win gold after being beaten by the Hungarian team last year, and hopefully with perfect baton changes they will be victorious again.

 

 

 

 

My Training Group

Athletics

I get to to train with a fantastic group of athletes, and Team Moore have supported me every step of the way through my Transplant Sport journey…

Lawrence ‘Coach’ Moore

Lover of pharmaceuticals (working for a company that develops and sells them, that is) and a quality glass of wine, Coach Moore started coaching his daughter Mica, and before long a bunch of athletes noticed the great results she was having, and wanted a piece of the action! Always proud of his group, he can often be found with a stop watch in hand and a smile on his face.

Mica ‘Chu’ Moore

Currently embarking on a crash course (sometimes literally) of world class bobsleigh racing, our pocket rocket, and newly crowned World Junior bobsleigh champion has her roots firmly placed in South Wales, and we can’t wait to have her back when the ice season is over. A Welsh national record holder over 4 x 100m, Commonwealth Games representative, GB Junior athlete and Total Wipeout winner, this Disney princess is an awesome training partner to have.

Ashley ‘Smashers’ Jones

Ash’s mentality of ‘just keep going’, is completely infectious, and his progress over the 400m in 2016 was testament to his perseverance over the man-killer event. 5 PBs in 2016 and a return to his junior event of high jumping means that 2017 is set to be an exciting year for our very own Smashers.

Curtis ‘Curt’ Matthews

A 2014 Commonwealth Games top 10 placed decathlete, Curt decided to dabble with rugby for a year in 2015, but his love for athletics proved too strong, and he was back competing for Wales again at the end of the 2016 summer season. Curtis successfully qualified for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and funds his training by exercising dogs with his own company, https://healthhounds.co.uk

Lewis ‘Lew’ Evans

As of January 2017, Lewis joined the rather elite group of Transplant Athletes, after he received a new kidney from his mum. Years of dialysis are (fingers crossed) now a thing of the past, and in his first British Games he won a silver medal in the 100m. He has already run post transplant PBs in the 60m and 100m, and we’re expecting big things from Lew in 2018.

 

 

Ulcerative colitis (aka enemy no.1)

Health

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, (which along with Crohn’s disease, is one of the most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)), in June 2014, just before my liver transplant. The disease involves the formation of small little ulcers in the colon (large intestine), which disrupts the whole function of the colon. Common symptoms include crippling abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss and passing blood, which can then lead to exhaustion and anaemia. I’ve experienced all of these over the past 2 and a half years, leading to a spell in hospital in July 2016, followed by an iron infusion in September.

Colitis is a HORRIBLE, exhausting, debilitating, embarrassing disease which took over my life for close to a year. Mesalazine (granules and enemas), azathioprine, prednisolone (wonder drug but too many side effects to mention), no medicines really worked. I started infusions of infliximab in August 2016, and along with a complete change in diet, I now have my colitis under control. More about that in a future blog.