Heart transplant

Transplant Games Honor Those Who Donated Organs To Help Others Survive

The event presents those who have been given a second chance at life through organ donation an opportunity to meet those who facilitated their survival and honors those who saved lives as a result of their deaths

The Transplant Games of America kicked off and will run from July 5 to 10 in Birmingham, Alabama. The event presents those who have been given a second chance at life through organ donation with an opportunity to meet those who facilitated their survival and honors those who saved lives as a result of their deaths.

The games are unique in another way: every participant in the 20 events is an organ or living tissue transplant recipient.

According to a press release issued by the Health Equity in Transplantation Coalition (HEiTC), chaired by R&B legend and organ transplant recipient Al. B. Sure, the event is produced with the Transplant Life Foundation. HEiTC was founded by Sure, Rev Al Sharpton, and Rachel Noerdlinger to advocate for policy changes and spread awareness of the disparities for Black and Brown Americans in the organ transplant community. 

Sure recalled his fight in the press release, “Two years ago, I overcame the greatest challenge of my life thanks to the gift of a donor and their loved ones. My liver transplant and the dedicated team of medical professionals, led by Dr. Constance Mobley and Houston Methodist, as well as the support of my community, saved my life. I know that many can relate to my experience and share in my call for equitable healthcare practices that remove undue barriers.”

“Which is why the Transplant Games being hosted in Birmingham is so profoundly symbolic. It honors a city that was crucial to the Civil Rights Movement and underscores our ongoing fight for health equity,” Sure added.

Sure continued, “That is the reason why I started HEiTC with Rev. Al Sharpton and Rachel Noerdlinger, to advocate not only for policy changes but simple awareness about the disparities that exist for Black and Brown transplant recipients. Our collective work aims to dismantle those inequities and outcomes for underserved and rural communities, who are disproportionately more likely to need a transplant in their lifetime and yet, all too often, are the ones to face barriers to access to resources. This year’s games are more than a sporting event – they underscore the critical need for systemic changes that ensure everyone has access to the life-saving resources they need without undue hardship.”

As BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported, Black transplant recipients previously received a boon by being moved up on the transplant candidate list after a test that still adhered to anti-Black standards was adjusted to today’s scientific understanding that kidneys of all races function the same way when healthy.

This long overdue change underscored the difficulties faced by Black organ transplant recipients, through no fault of their own but due to the vestiges of the racist pseudoscience of the past. 

Sharpton, a senior advisor for HEiTC, indicated in the press release that it is fitting that this year’s event took place in Birmingham, the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement for Black people in the 1950s and 1960s. “Birmingham was at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, so it is only fitting to have this event there as we continue this fight to close the access gap for Black and Brown transplant patients,” Sharpton explained. “The Transplant Games will no doubt be a special celebration of the gift hundreds of thousands have received while also raising awareness for those still on the waitlist.”

Bill Ryan, the CEO of Transplant Life Foundation, echoed Sharpton and Sure, saying in his statement, “We are deeply honored to produce this year’s Transplant Games in Birmingham—a city renowned for its pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a fitting backdrop to celebrate donors’ selfless acts, their families’ resilience, and the renewed lives of transplant recipients. I stand committed to the historically underserved Black and Brown communities in solidarity with the Health Equity in Transplantation Coalition.

“Disproportionately affected by kidney and heart organ failure, these communities often rely on organ transplantation as their sole lifeline. Through the Games, we aim to amplify the urgent need for organ donations and to shed light on the disparities in transplantation. Together, we can make a difference.”

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