An Galway woman who won a gold and two bronze medals at the European Transplant and Dialysis Games in Zagreb has dedicated her medal haul to her donor and her donor’s family.
Linda Waters, from Athenry was competing in the 40 to 49 age category in both doubles and singles ten-pin bowling and petanque, and in the shot-putt, and took home gold in the doubles bowling and bronze in singles petanque and shot putt.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, Ms Waters said she was “absolutely thrilled” with her three medals, especially her gold, which she won alongside bowling partner, Alison Honner.
“I won a bronze in Dublin [in 2010] and I wanted to equal if not better that. To be honest, I would have been happy with one silver coming home. That would have made my day, but, to get three medals, I’m walking on air at the moment, I never expected it,” said Ms Waters.
The 26-strong Irish team managed to accumulate a hugely impressive 50 medals, including 14 gold medals, at the games in Zagreb, which ran from 18 to 25 August.
The heat in the Croat city reached up to 40 degrees Celsius at times and on one particular night was as high as 30 degrees at midnight, but the athletes helped each other through the gruelling experience, according to Athenry’s gold medal winner.
“It was tough, and it was very, very tiring and draining with that kind of heat, but we all seemed to get through it,” she said.
Ms Waters had suffered from diabetes for 30 years and had a life-saving kidney and pancreas dual transplant in 2001. The change from suffering from a debilitating condition to competing in international sporting events is, she says, “amazing”.
“When I got diabetes at the age of seven, there was no cure for it and I was told there was no cure for it and that this was my life for the rest of my life, and in my lifetime, to have a cure and to be free of diabetes is just, as far as I’m concerned, a miracle. [Transplant surgeon] Mr Hickey has literally worked a miracle for me, a far as I’m concerned.”
Ms Waters said that, when her condition deteriorated, her son was nine years old, and her only wish was to live to see him grow up and finish school. He is now 21, and immensely proud of his mother’s achievement.
And, she says, to have competed at an event like the European Transplant Games is a bonus.
Ms Waters says she decided to compete in the European Transplant Games to show ordinary people, donors and their families the positive effects that organ donations can have on their recipients’ lives. She has a simple message for anyone considering becoming a donor: “Organ donation works!”
“There’s a part of me that belongs to somebody else. That person is here with me, everywhere I go, everything I do. Every day I think about that person and their family. ‘Thank you’ is not enough.”
Ms Waters said the medals weren’t hers, rather they belonged to her donor and her donor’s family, “because without them, literally, I probably wouldn’t be here at this stage.”
For organ donor cards, freetext the word DONOR to 50050 or visit website www.ika.ie. It is now possible to download an organ donor card on smartphones by searching for ‘Organ Donor ECard’ at the iPhone store or Android marketplace.