Houston has its share of sporting events but hosting the Transplant Games of America was particularly special for Texas Children’s. As one of the lead sponsors, the hospital supported the games by promoting them, encouraging employees to volunteer, as well as organizing participation by patients. President & CEO Mark A. Wallace joined other leaders from the medical center at the opening ceremonies to carry out the official game flag that had traveled the country and been signed by transplant donors and recipients.
For Liver Transplant Coordinator Sarah Koohmaraie, the Transplant Games of America was a very special event. Koohmaraie was participating for herself, her father and her patients. To know how much this means to Koohmaraie, you would have to go back a few years.
In December of 2007, a little more than a week after graduating from nursing school, Koohmaraie went into surgery. Just months before that day, she found out her father was in need of a kidney transplant. While he was hesitant to let his daughter be the donor, Koohmaraie said she insisted.
“I kind of went behind his back and got tests done and made sure it would work out,” said Koohmaraie. “I knew I wanted to be the donor.”
The transplant was a success and a couple of months later, Koohmaraie was back at the hospital, this time as a transplant nurse. She moved to Houston in 2012 and began her position as a transplant coordinator at Texas Children’s. She said when she found out through work that some patients were participating in the transplant games, she knew she wanted to join them. She felt the camaraderie as she participated in all of the events.
“It was neat to see all of these patients who could have been on death’s door and now they’re doing exactly what I’m doing,” said Koohmaraie. “It was also nice to have my dad out there cheering me on and getting to meet other recipients.”
Team Texas consisted of 300 participants, patients and donors from across the state, including many former Texas Children’s patients, who took part in athletic competition and raised awareness for organ donations. The team had an impressive 450 registered supporters. The oldest participant from Texas was 83 year-old John Cugini and Parson Blue Herrington was the youngest at just two years old. The event brings to light the need for organ donors and brings together transplant patients, donors and families from all over the country. Forty-four teams and thousands of participants competed for gold this year with some states combining to form a more robust team. The games take place every year, going to the world stage in the World Transplant Games every other year.
“It was nice to raise awareness for donation, every one of those people out there wouldn’t have been able to be out there if someone didn’t donate,” said Koohmaraie. “You got to see people who were once very ill and now athletically fit with someone else’s organ in them and you would never know it.”
Team Texas brought home around 104 medals with 63 gold, 26 silver and 15 bronze. Koohmaraie competed in the Cycling 5k and 20K as well as the 1500 meter. She came home with the gold in all three.
See the photo gallery from the Transplant Games of America pep rally below.