Alice Vogt, the first South African to have two double-lung transplants and survive, is joining more than 80 other organ recipients in the sporting arena, says a Sunday Times report. The 33-year-old will compete at the National Transplant Games in Port Elizabeth in a bid to qualify for her fourth World Transplant Games, to be held next year in England.
As a child, Vogt was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a disease that eventually drowns the person. She had a double-lung transplant in 2008, but her body rejected it. She had another in October. Before surgery she was out of breath after just one squat. Six weeks later she played her first game of squash. “I was terrible,” recalled Vogt, who won five medals at three world games from 2009 to 2013, including two golds in squash and race-walking.
The report says the rejection started in 2013, with her lung function plummeting to around 70%. By the time she was wheeled into theatre it was between 24% and 30%. This week she will compete in the squash matches and the 100m sprint.
Vivian de Klerk, an air force sergeant, had a bone-marrow transplant in 2011 after being diagnosed with a rare blood disease. She was persistently tired, experienced bruising and bleeding and was at risk of getting infections. None of her three brothers was a match for a marrow donation, but a donor was found in Germany.
“It took about a year to regain my health,” said de Klerk, 33, who has 10 world games medals. After the transplant, she started running. “I was just motivated, I got a second chance,” she said.
Nombeko Rwaxa, 59, had struggled with dizziness since high school and years later cysts were found on a kidney. She had renal failure after her husband died in 2004. She had dialysis at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital for three years, a procedure that sapped her energy, before she received a kidney donated by a cousin. “When I got my kidney failure, I saw my life as doomed. After my transplant I could look forward to the future,” she said.
Rwaxa, who owns a guesthouse and is on the board of the Tourism Grading Council, has competed at four world games, winning five medals for cricket-ball throwing and the 100m sprint. “I can do things I never thought I could do. Visiting (countries abroad), I never thought I would lead that kind of life.”
Heilie Uys, 66, had a kidney transplant in 2004. Now she is South Africa’s most decorated athlete with 31 medals — 26 of them gold — and with five world records from seven world games since 2005. “I always played golf,” said the 16-handicapper. “But shot put, discus, javelin I last did at school and university. All of a sudden I got this new kidney and I was filled with a new life.” She resumed her old athletics disciplines and added the ball throw. “Whenever you go to the next world games you’re always looking forward to meeting your opponents again. But the sad aspect is you find that someone has died.”
The report says many recipients have a matter-of-fact approach to death. “I’ve had 14 extra years,” said Uys. “Every day is a bonus. If this is my last day, I’m ready. It’s about quality time. I don’t strive to be 80.” Uys admits her days of competing are coming to an end. “My husband says I should go for the 70s (age category) because there are fewer competitors. I must just outlive them all,” she said with a laugh.Sunday Times report (subscription needed)