Athletes from Utah, Idaho compete in games to honor organ donors

Posted at 9:42 PM, Aug 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-02 23:42:23-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Some incredible athletes from Utah and Idaho recently brought home a top prize at the 35th Transplant Games of America.

FOX 13 News spoke with some of the athletes, including Barney Nelson, who received two liver transplants.

“I love competing in the games, because somewhere along the line, I heard someone say, ‘Live like your donor is watching you,’" he said. "I like to compete like my donor is watching me, because it just gives me the chance to really, to show that because of him I have a second chance at life and I’m very grateful for that.”

Team Utah/Idaho consisted of 19 members, who traveled to Houston in July to compete in the Olympic-style games—including swimming, cycling, track and field, darts, bowling and others. The members of the team are those who have donated organs or who are living organ donors.

Rick Lilly was on that team, and he said it’s a bonding experience to compete.

"The camaraderie that we have, because we have all had transplants or are donors, and then the fact that... you have friends everywhere you go,” he said of the competition.

Lynn Wayman is a living donor who competed and said that camaraderie extends to everyone, not just team members.

“There was no walls; the minute you meet anybody in these games, they are your friend, they are your friend, we are all a family, we are all connected, and it was so awesome to be part of this,” Wayman said. “We can't wait to be part of it in the future too.”

Dawn Christensen’s daughter, Patia, passed away in 2009 after suffering head trauma in a sledding accident. She was only 9 years old. Christensen said her daughter’s organs were donated to three people around the country.

She said: “In that moment, we both just knew that that was something we wanted to do, because our life had come crashing down on us and nothing good could happen except donation... We had so many people thanking us, and the one thing that I came away with was this: That’s all the thanks we need, seeing these people healthy.”

For more information, visit the Transplant Games of America’s website.