A Teesside University academic is preparing to compete in a major international sporting event as a result of donating a kidney to a complete stranger.
When Dr Gill Owens altruistically donated a kidney in March 2015, little did she think it would lead to her being invited to take part in the World Transplant Games.
She is now training to compete in the 100m sprint representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the sporting event taking place in Malaga in June, as it is the first time donors have been invited to compete.
The Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Management in the University’s School of Social Sciences, Business & Law, said: “I am really looking forward to representing my country.”
Gill, who is an ambassador and trustee of the Give a Kidney Foundation, added: “I used to do the sprint event as a schoolgirl, but there has been a lot of advancement in sports science since I was at school so I really value the help I’ve had from the University.”
Support through exercise and dietary advice is being offered to Gill by a team of experts including physiotherapist Paul Chesterton, who leads the BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation programme, Elite Sports officer Matthew Wright, Mike Campbell, BSc (Hons) Applied Science & Exercise student and fitness instructor in the University gym, and Stuart Brown, strength and conditioning coach.
“I really appreciate their involvement, it is a real team effort and I am so lucky to have the support of the guys working with me, their expertise is invaluable,” said Gill, who is currently training three times a week with early morning gym sessions, with training to be stepped up further as the event approaches.
Gill, who will be joining a 250-strong GB team in Spain, said: “Taking part is a chance to promote the cause of both organ donation and transplant sport to help demonstrate that you can enjoy a perfectly fit, healthy and active life after either donating or receiving a kidney.”
There are currently over 6,500 people on the UK national transplant waiting list, with an average wait time of two and a half years for a donor.
Awareness of this situation led to development of a legal framework for altruistic donation in the UK. Altruistic kidney donation involves an individual offering their kidney as a living donor to an unknown person in order to enable to recipient to live a longer and healthier life.