Pauline’s Journey: Overcoming Kidney Failure through Transplants

Pauline Sweeny (1973) has a remarkable story to tell about her experience with organ transplants. Her kidney failure stemmed from her battle with Lupus, a condition she has bravely faced throughout her life. Overcoming numerous challenges, Pauline has undergone two kidney transplants, each leaving an indelible mark on her journey.

In 2010, Pauline received her first transplant from her brother. Unfortunately, the transplant failed after just nine days, plunging her into a new phase of her medical treatment. She was placed on Haemodialysis, a demanding process, before transitioning to Peritoneal dialysis in September of that year. This gruelling cycle continued for approximately four and a half years until she received her second chance at life in 2015. This time, her transplant came from the Cadaveric list, and fortunately, it has been successful thus far.

While the road to recovery was undoubtedly challenging, Pauline discovered the immense benefits of exercise for transplant patients. Encouraged by Transplant Australia, she embraced the opportunity to engage in various sporting events. Through Transplant Australia WA (TAWA), she found herself participating in sports camps and a range of athletic activities. As someone who had always loved sports, the opportunity to represent her country as part of the Australian team at the World Transplant Games held in Perth was a dream come true.

Western Australian Petanque team

Pauline competed in five events at the World Transplant Games: Pétanque (French Boules) for both singles and doubles, where she won a silver medal in the pairs; darts, though not as successful; the 3K Women’s Race Walk, where she was proud of her performance despite not securing a medal; and discus, a discipline she is still mastering. The dedication and effort she put into training and preparing for these events were remarkable.

Her training regimen included regular Pétanque practice sessions every Tuesday night with the TAWA group at the Subiaco Pétanque Club. She also engaged in periodic dart training sessions organised by TAWA at the Belmont Sports and Recreation Club. For the 3K walk, she received guidance from a coach during a training camp, which inspired her to continue training a few times a week. She even ventured into competing in some master’s events, demonstrating her commitment to maintaining her newfound fitness and athleticism.

The World Transplant Games marked Pauline’s inaugural participation at the global level, having previously competed in two Australian Transplant Games. The opportunity to represent her country on such a significant stage was a deeply meaningful experience, especially as the Games took place in her hometown of Perth. Performing in front of her family and friends added an extra layer of pride and fulfilment.

Pauline with her coach

Participating in the World Transplant Games has had a profound impact on Pauline’s life, both athletically and personally. It has motivated her to continue pursuing her passion for race walking, inspiring her to maintain an active lifestyle. Not only has she become much fitter through her athletic endeavours, but she has also expanded her social circle and formed meaningful connections with fellow transplant recipients and supporters.

Reflecting on her memorable moments and experiences from the Games, Pauline cherishes the exhilaration of the Opening Ceremony. The sight of flags from 47 countries adorning the Matagarup Bridge, the spirited chants of “Aussie Aussie Aussie” as they crossed the bridge, and the overwhelming support from spectators filled her heart with joy. Above all, she appreciates the opportunity to participate and acknowledges the generosity of donor families whose selflessness made it all possible. The presence of living donors and donor families in the march, with the families being the last to enter, served as a poignant reminder of the profound impact of organ donation on countless lives.

When asked about her advice for other transplant recipients aspiring to compete at the World Transplant Games, Pauline offers a simple yet powerful message: “Have a go.” Regardless of prior experience or performance expectations, she encourages others to seize the opportunity to participate. Pauline’s own achievements in Pétanque and race walking serve as a testament to the potential for success when one embraces new challenges and pursues their passions.

By participating in the World Transplant Games, Pauline hopes to raise awareness about the critical importance of organ donation. While she acknowledges the sensitivity of discussing this topic, she believes that her involvement in these Games has played a small role in shedding light on the issue. With a long way to go in increasing transplant awareness, she remains committed to making a difference, one conversation at a time.

Pauline’s story is nothing short of inspiring, a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the transformative power of organ transplantation. Her unwavering determination, resilience, and commitment to a healthy lifestyle serve as an inspiration to all those facing their own challenges. We thank Pauline for sharing her incredible journey and wish her continued success in her future athletic endeavours and advocacy for organ donation.

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