The Champion Within: Sue’s Inspiring Journey at the World Transplant Games

This week, we meet two past students who have remarkable stories of resilience, determination, and triumph. They share something in common. Sue Thompson (McInnes, 1988) and Pauline Sweeney (1973) have both received donor kidneys, and this month, we share their stories about competing at the World Transplant Games in Perth.

Here is Sue’s story.

Sue Thompson’s incredible journey as a participant in the World Transplant Games began with her organ transplant at the age of 13 in July 1985. Sue was a boarder at Santa Maria, and in Year 9 when she was diagnosed with kidney failure. Sue underwent dialysis treatments and eventually received a kidney transplant. She had to leave Santa Maria, returning to her local high school. Her diagnosis meant many days spent at Princess Margaret Hospital on dialysis with her mum and brother, moving to Perth to be close by. Sue returned to Santa Maria for Years 11 and 12.

Since her transplant, she has maintained good health, although she continues to take immunosuppressants. Something she will need to do for the rest of her life.

Representing Australia as a swimmer at the World Transplant Games in Perth was a significant experience for Sue. Marching into Optus Stadium alongside her teammates and receiving support from the local community left an indelible impression. The honour of representing her country and the realisation of her achievement as a world champion deeply affected her.

Sue prepared diligently for the Games, but working shift work did create some challenges. She mostly trained alone, utilising online training programs, and occasionally practised with her children and received guidance from her husband, all keen swimmers. Regular visits to the pool and attending training sessions organised by Transplant Australia helped refine her skills.

At the World Transplant Games, Sue competed in various freestyle and butterfly, individual and relay events, where she earned a total of eight medals – two gold, three silver, and three bronze medals! She also served as the swim leg for the team’s sprint triathlon. Her achievements are a testament to her dedication and determination.

Motivated by her involvement in the transplant community and a desire to honour her organ donor, Sue aimed to raise awareness about organ donation. Participating in the Games gave her a goal to train for and helped her maintain an active and fit lifestyle.

The impact of the World Transplant Games on Sue’s life has been profound. She is committed to maintaining her fitness levels and plans to continue participating in transplant sports events. The Games introduced her to a supportive community of individuals who cherish the gift of life. Sue feels incredibly grateful to her donor and their family, and representing her donor at the Games allowed her to express her everlasting gratitude.

Sue encourages other transplant recipients to seize the opportunity to participate in the World Transplant Games.

When asked about the impact of the games Sue had this to say, “Locally in Busselton, we had the Games Baton at the Busselton Jetty Swim before the games. It also came to the Busselton Health Campus, where I work. So many people at work said they never knew about the games. I think there was a general raising of awareness about organ donation. That then translates into more people signing up to be organ after meeting people who have had organ transplants. The games highlighted the awesome benefits of organ donation and the difference it makes to someone’s life. It also showcases the amazing things that people with organ transplants can achieve in their lives. There are so many amazing stories.”

Memorable moments for Sue included the emotional opening ceremony, witnessing the march of donor families and living donors, and competing in relay teams that fostered camaraderie and unity. She also cherished the reaction of her children upon discovering her husband was the person inside the Games mascot. The presence of her renal doctor witnessing her medal-winning performances added to the significance of her achievements.

Sue’s journey at the World Transplant Games is a testament to the transformative power of organ transplantation. Her dedication, gratitude, and commitment to raising awareness make her an inspirational figure. Sue’s experience highlights the profound impact that participating in the Games can have on an individual’s life and the broader community.


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