Thursday, July 10, 2008

2008 U.S. Transplant Games to be held in Pittsburgh

Local teen Sam Scholl excels in athletics, and plans to show off her skills at the Convention Center this weekend. While she insists she lives as a normal teenager, she is a heart transplant recipient who wants others to learn about organ transplants.

The biannual U.S. Transplant Games, presented by the National Kidney Foundation, is an Olympic-style competition that features transplant recipients competing in sporting events.

It makes its debut here in Pittsburgh this Saturday.

Local Nikki McKenna, 29, received a kidney ten years ago when her father donated one of his. She has participated in the Games since 2000, and she thinks participating is incredibly rewarding.

"I was so sick before I had my transplant that I didn't think I would be able to play sports again or do things like this. Sports was such a big part of my life before I had my transplant," McKenna said.

She is particularly excited to participate in the games in her hometown. So is 16-year-old Sam.

"I'm having a lot of my friends come, and they don't know about organ transplantation... I'm having them come just to witness the experience," Scholl said.

It is the first time Pittsburgh has held such an event. This weekend is expected to draw its biggest crowd yet since its start in 1990.

More than 1,300 organ transplant recipients, 300 donor families, and over 100 living donors nationwide are expected to attend the Games. They plan to demonstrate the success of transplantation while calling attention to the critical need for more organ donors. 125 of those recipients are from Pittsburgh alone, according to Maggie Pratt, co-manager of Team Pittsburgh.

Opening ceremonies commence on Saturday, July 12th, at the David Lawrence Convention Center, and the competition will last through July 16th.

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