Volunteer therapists help keep organ transplant athletes in sporting shape

More than 850 athletes, all of whom have received a lifesaving organ transplant, were supported by a team of physiotherapists, students and sports therapists at an event last month.


Volunteer physios at the 2017 British Transplant Games

The 40th British Transplant Games took place in North Lanarkshire from 27-30 July. Athletes competed in a variety of sports including volleyball, racquets, bowling, darts, golf, swimming, cycling, five-a-side football and track and field athletics.

‘The games aim to demonstrate the fantastic results of organ transplantation in restoring people to good health, and the importance of organ donation,’ said physio team lead Alison Bloxham.

A team of 17 volunteer physios, sports therapists and students were on hand to assess and treat injuries as well as provide sports massage.

‘Many of the team have been coming for many years and travel from all over the UK, paying all their own costs, as the event and the athletes are so inspirational. It is very much a case of getting “hooked”,’ Ms Bloxham told Frontline.

Volunteer physios give treatment to 2017 British Transplant Games athletes

The event was also a great learning opportunity for the team as the therapists came from a wide range of backgrounds and very different levels of experience.

‘There is a very strong emphasis on teaching, sharing and mentoring,’ she said.

‘My aim is to ensure that they work alongside the athletes in a variety of events and gain experience and learning from the more senior physios on the team – it is very much a learning environment as well as gaining considerable practical experience.’

Meanwhile, Bolton palliative care physiotherapist Robert Hodgkiss (left, in white shirt, in the photograph), who had a heart transplant 21 years ago, won four silver and one bronze medal in athletics and swimming at the British Transplant Games.

Mr Hodgkiss, who works both in Bolton Hospice and across the community, mainly sees patients expected to be in the last 12 months of life.

'I provide exercise programmes to try and maintain function and independence as well as mobility assessments, breathlessness and fatigue management, goal setting, management of malignant spinal cord compression and also a key role in advanced care planning for future deterioration.

'I think that having been through a life threatening illness and significant changes to my life I can emphasise with some of my patient's problems,' he told Frontline.

The British Transplant Games take place next year in Birmingham and the World Transplant Games in Newcastle and Gateshead in 2019.

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