Newcastle University sprinting for success at the WTG2019

15th August 2019

Newcastle University student Sam Pooley is about to represent Great Britain in the World Transplant Games.

To look at him now, it’s hard to believe that a complication at birth meant he almost died when the umbilical cord got stuck around his neck, sending his body into total shutdown and organ failure.

Sam was left on kidney dialysis for a few years and eventually required a kidney transplant aged four from an anonymous donor.

But, astonishingly, the 20 year old will in days compete in the 100m and 200m sprints, as well as the long jump and relay to help highlight the importance of organ donation and transplantation.

Honour to compete

 The Archaeology and Ancient History student said: “I am very excited for the World Transplant Games and it’s a great honour to be competing for my country, especially when the event is in the North East.

“To see so many athletes, who have all had a transplant, compete at such a high level is a great way to show the importance of organ donation and how it saves lives.

“My donor has had a major effect on my life and my family’s. I make sure that I live life to the fullest, enjoy every moment and I’m determined to succeed.

“I can’t think of any better place for the Games and I’m excited to have the support of my family and friends in a city where I study and love.

“It is a once in a lifetime event and is completely free to watch at venues across the region, so I encourage as many people as possible to come and support the participants.”

Sam has been training with Newcastle University’s Athletics and Cross Country club, who have helped him gain full fitness and reach a high standard of ability.

It is the third World Transplant Games that Sam will have taken part in and, over the years, he has won medals in Argentina and South Africa. Just last month, he scooped two silvers and a gold at the British Transplant Games.

He said: “I am very grateful for the help of the Newcastle University athletics team. The facilities at the University and in the North East are fantastic so I have been pushed hard to achieve my best.”

Organ donation

There are currently more than 6,000 people in the UK waiting for a transplant and since April this year 1,331 people have had a new organ.

Sam has had his donated kidney for 16 years and, since the average lifespan of a donated kidney is a decade, he is expected to need another organ in the future.

He said: “I am one of the luckier ones as I received an organ and I’m living well with it as I keep fit and healthy, but there are some who are much less fortunate and organ donation awareness is needed.

“People should discuss with their family whether they want to donate their organs when they die. One deceased donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation so it’s an important conversation to have.”

Next week, thousands of transplant athletes and their family and friends will descend on the North East for the World Transplant Games.

Participants from 59 countries, including Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mongolia and Nepal, will take part in the week-long Games that start on Saturday (August 17th).

Transplant athletes from as young as six to 84-year-olds will take part in a range of events, including archery, athletics, cycling, darts, golf and volleyball.

Event showcasing University’s work

On Saturday, families are being encouraged to take part in a fun day of interactive exercise workshops designed to test and measure the body’s strength and fitness.

Sports Science experts at Newcastle University will be offering a variety of free activities on campus next month, which are open to the public to assess their fitness levels.

Sessions will include looking at what happens to the heart during different types of exercise; how flexible and powerful people are; and the body’s reaction times under high-pressure situations.

Alongside the Sports Science Event, a conference will take place at Newcastle University, called ‘Life Saver to Life Changer’, where hundreds of experts and those affected by organ donation will find out more about the latest medical developments in transplantation.

Anyone can participate in the free Sport Science Event, which will take place from 10am-4pm on Saturday, at the Boiler House and Union Lawn, Newcastle University Campus. No need to book in advance.