DONATE LIFE ORGAN DONATION AWARENESS - THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA
Team SoCal members earn honors at transplant games
By Kelsey Stuart | Ventura Star
October 5, 2010
Tom Henry and Holly Miyagawa both know what it’s like to need an organ transplant. And they also both know how to win.
Henry of Ventura and Miyagawa, formerly of Thousand Oaks, both organ transplant recipients, were members of Team SoCal, which brought back an impressive number of the medals from the National Kidney Foundation Transplant Games held recently in Madison, Wis.
Henry, Team SoCal’s track and field team captain, said the team’s success comes from its variety of age groups and athletic ability. “Of our 32 athletes, 29 of them were medalists,” Henry said.
“You can’t miss the Southern California team,” said Ellie Schlam, director of external communications for the National Kidney Foundation. “They are a very cohesive team with a lot of energy and tons of spirit.”
Presented biannually by the National Kidney Foundation since 1990, the U.S. Transplant Games drew 42 teams from across the country composed of people who have had organ transplants.
Athletes compete in a variety of sports such as golf, swimming, three-on-three basketball, a 5-kilometer road race, tennis, bowling, volleyball, badminton, track and field, racquetball, cycling and table tennis.
“The games are awesome. From my personal experience they drive people who have had a organ transplant to be healthy and to exercise,” said Henry, who has been competing since 1994.
Henry, who had a kidney transplant in 1994 after suffering from polycystic cancer, has won more than 35 gold medals and holds three world records.
This year he again took gold, in shot put, javelin and volleyball.
“Our volleyball team has placed gold for the last three years,” Henry said. “This year we had to do it without Holly. She had to sit through it on the bench and I know that was hard for her.”
Miyagawa, a Thousand Oaks High School graduate and the captain of Team SoCal’s volleyball team, tore her Achilles tendon during one of her events.
“I have known Holly for years; she is a wonderful example of an outstanding athlete and is a wonderful role model for sportsmanship,” Schlam said.
Miyagawa, a team star on and off the field, came home with the most prestigious female athlete award.
“The 2010 Jerry Cound Outstanding Female Athlete Award was awarded to Holly for not only being a superb athlete, but for her continuous dedication in advocating organ donation,” said Sandy Perez, division program and community director for the National Kidney Foundation.
Perez said Miyagawa speaks to high school students on the importance of organ donation and is actively involved with local kidney foundation events.
“She is very athletic and she is an important member of our team,” teammate Daniel Ronco said.
Miyagawa took home five medals: four golds and a silver.
“I was in the last 40 meters of the 200 race and I tore my tendon,” Miyagawa said. “I placed silver in that race and I am still in a cast.”
Miyagawa said she has 10 months to heal before the 2011 World Games in June in Sweden. She has already been invited to compete.
“I was 16 years old and in high school when I found out through a regular health physical that my kidneys were not functioning properly,” Miyagawa said.
Miyagawa said she was told that she had been born with the failing kidneys, but didn’t think about it until years later.
“At age 29 I was on dialysis and with two failing kidneys,” Miyagawa said. “Luckily by March of 2000 I received a kidney from my cousin.”
Miyagawa said she found out about the games in the summer of 2004 while looking at the National Kidney Foundation website.
“It was an eye-opener finding out when I was 29 that I am not going to live forever. When I saw these games existed I was motivated to make the most of everything,” she said.
Miyagawa lives and works in Hermosa Beach, where she is also an ambassador for One Legacy, a transplant donor network that serves Southern California.
“There are a lot more people on the waiting list than people who are donating organs,” Miyagawa said.
Miyagawa, Henry and their teammates try to increase donor awareness wherever they are.
“Being recipients of organ transplants, we are able to show that there is life after having a transplant and there are ways to unite families through it,” Miyagawa said.
“More than 108,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for life-saving organ transplants, with 83,000 of those waiting for kidneys. Eighteen people will die each day while waiting. The Transplant Games visually showcase the success of transplantation, demonstrating the life-saving power of organ donation,” says John Davis, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation. “We hope our competition will drive home the message that every American should consider becoming an organ donor.”