EVERY athlete has a story.
That's one of the drawcards of the Australian Transplant Games for Doug Alexander, 56, of Thorneside who will participate for the first time this year since having a kidney transplant in early 2010.
Last year, Doug competed in the World Transplant Games in Sweden, combining the competition with a three-month European tour, both representing newfound liberty since gaining the new kidney.
"It's been wonderful. Since the transplant, we have been to Europe, walked the Milford track in New Zealand and moved house. I couldn't have done this otherwise," Doug said.
Doug said no longer being on dialysis four days a week (for four years) had changed his life and given him the freedom to lead a "normal" existence.
"That's what the games are a chance to appreciate what you have and to celebrate being well," Doug said.
This year, Doug will compete in tennis, golf, swimming and beach volleyball at the games, to be held in Newcastle from September 29 October 6.
Doug said he was playing "down an age group" in tennis as he was the only one in his age group competing.
"I'd whip everybody and probably win!" he said.
But for Doug the games are less about winning and more about a celebration of life.
"Everyone is looking towards the future. And everyone is celebrating their achievements so far. It's inspiring and there is a great deal of support there. The medals don't matter. Playing is enough," Doug said.
Doug said his gratitude, however, remained with the donor and although he had sent a letter to the family, he felt it was possibly too soon for contact.
"I just want them to know that their sacrifice hasn't been in vain and there are people like me and others who have benefited. It is beyond my ability to express what I feel. This kidney has given me another chance to live my life," he said.
Doug said he felt fortunate to be an organ transplant recipient in Australia and particularly in Queensland where waiting times were less than in other states. But he said these times had still grown to about five/six years.
"There are more on the list and less donors," he said.
The games offer a chance to maintain awareness of the vital role donors play.
"The games demonstrate world-wide the 'living proof' that transplantation saves lives. What's more, it allows them a quality of life they might not have experienced for years. They can start a family, play sport, and get back into the workforce all because of the generosity of someone else," Transplant Australia CEO Chris Thomas said.
He said organ and tissue donation was something every Australian should discuss with their families because it was important to know the wishes of family members.
For more information on transplants visit www.transplant.org.au For more information on organ donation visit www.donatelife.gov.au