At this moment, about 112,000 people across the Untied States are awaiting an organ transplant.
I was fortunate to receive two: One from my father, Stephen Brooks, who donated one of his kidneys to me in 1999 and one from mother, Nancy Brooks, when she also donated a kidney, but in 2007.
And this year, I participated in and won nine medals during the Transplant Games of America, which was sponsored by Spectrum Health and held in Michigan July 28-31.
Nearly 1,000 people who have received life-saving organ transplants competed in the Olympic-style sporting events. The Transplant Games takes places every two years and gives organ transplant recipients the opportunity to compete in 12 different sports for gold, silver or bronze medals. And it draws people from across the country to bring awareness to the importance of organ donations and spotlights how successful this life-saving gift can be.
It is not only a great way to compete and make friends with people who have had similar experiences, but also a way to draw attention to the 1 in 8 Americans who have chronic kidney disease and the 112,000 people waiting for a life-saving organ.
For my part, I won one bronze, two silver and six gold medals. While I usually focus on cycling, I was able to win five gold medals on the track this year. And although I ran track in college, I’ve never enjoyed competing this much. I usually measure myself by my 1500 meter run, which was 6.04.20. It’s a solid time for anyone. And it is not the first time I have been successful in advocating for transplantation success. Last year I won gold at the World Transplant Games in Gothenburg, Sweden.
While I love to compete, I consider my work incomplete. I hope that through our efforts we are able to reach people waiting for life-saving organs. I want them to join me at the Games. I hope that people consider giving the gift of life. Donor families are our heroes. They decide to help others when their loved ones pass on.
I live for competing in the American and World Transplant Game. To be able to embody my gratitude to my parents is the only thanks I can give. Words are not enough. Both of them gave me a kidney.
Photo courtesy of Zachary S. Brooks. Brooks is a third-year doctoral student in the UA's Second Language Acquisition and Teaching program. Brooks also is president of the UA's Graduate and Professional Student Council. Brooks trains with TeamO2 based in downtown Tucson. With World Transplant Games in South Africa planned for 2013, Zachary plans to improve. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, to learn more about kidney disease prevention and organ transplantation, visit the Arizona Kidney Foundation or Donor Network of Arizona.