My PH Past Makes Healthy Competition Something to Be Savored

Kathleen Sheffer avatar

by Kathleen Sheffer |

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(Courtesy of Kathleen Sheffer)

One thing that I have looked forward to throughout my transplant journey is the Transplant Games. I was fortunate to learn about the Donate Life Transplant Games of America just days after my surgery. The Games were in Cleveland, Ohio, the week I was in the ICU. Ever since, I’ve had it in my head that I will compete in August 2018.

Produced by the Transplant Life Foundation, this multisport event occurs every other year in the United States. Competition events are open to recipients of organs, bone marrow, corneal, and tissue transplants, as well as living donors. The Games highlight the transformative role of organ, eye, and tissue donation. You can read more on their website.

My competitive nature has always motivated me. Give me a math workbook with hundreds of pages of problems and I’ll get through it sluggishly. Give the same workbook to two other students and challenge us to race to the end, and I’ll be doing math problems during recess. (True story.) Growing up with pulmonary hypertension (PH), I was never able to compete athletically. I channeled my competitive spirit into school, which I can’t write about without bragging about grades, so I won’t.

This year, the Games are in Salt Lake City. Though I’ve never been to Utah, I’ve always wanted to visit Zion National Park. Luckily, the flexibility of my job allows me to take extra time off, so I’m doing a full road trip with two friends and fellow competitors. Between the three of us, we have two recycled hearts and four recycled lungs. It’s spectacular we are all alive, let alone able to have this experience.


Sandwiched between my travel companions, Brad (lungs), and Mary (heart). (Courtesy of Kathleen Sheffer)

As competitive as I may be, I have honestly not put loads of effort into training for the Games. One reason is that my favorite forms of exercise aren’t event options. No rock climbing or … hiking tournaments? I don’t know how to swim or run (didn’t do much of either growing up with PH and continuous IV medication). I registered to compete in 5K and 20K cycling races, table tennis, and badminton. Perhaps more than the fact that I have little faith in my ability to win any of the events, I am totally content to lose to another transplant recipient. 

My motivation for exercising is always health — not winning or being the best. When I go to a rock climbing gym, I mostly climb routes that are within my comfort zone. Every so often, I test my limits and learn that I can climb harder routes (mostly at the insistence of my awesome climbing partner). I see other climbers showing off by trying to climb harder and harder routes even after failing to send a route with a lower rating. It still thrills me just to get a workout, regardless of what I’m doing!

Most of all, I’m looking forward to meeting huge numbers of transplant recipients. Already, I’ve met new friends on my local team (Team NorCal) who I’m excited to bond with more over the weekend. I’ll be sure to update you when the Games have begun!


Team NorCal prepping for the Transplant Games. (Courtesy of Kathleen Sheffer)


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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