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  • Alissa Norris

How to "Carpe Diem" Post-Transplant Surgery: The Transplant Games

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

What would be your response if I told you I played competitive sports growing up, through college and continue to be active today? Probably nothing, not even a flinch, as playing sports/being active is not uncommon. But what if I told you I did all of it after receiving a life saving organ transplant? Cue the crickets, followed with what? No way!

When I was 2.5 years old, I received a liver transplant because I had Biliary Atresia. After 11 months on the waiting list, I was given 30 days to live. Then the phone rang and this time it was not a false alarm. A liver was available. The transplant was a second chance; for not only my family to watch their daughter and little sister grow up, but for me to live a life full of adventures.

Now you have it, the second chance, what do you do with it? The U.S. Transplants Games offer transplant recipients and living donors an opportunity to showcase what it means to “Carpe Diem”! Competitors can choose between 60 special events, earn medals for placing but most importantly competitors meet others within the transplant community outside of their doctor’s offices, hometowns, states, and countries.

In 2002, I attended the U.S. Transplant Games in Orlando, Florida. Talk about exciting! I signed-up for the 4 X 400 relay, Long Jump, and the Softball Throw. I found my love for running, jumping, and quickly realized throwing a ball was not my thing. But no worries, my speed around the track and launch to the sandbox quickly made up for the lack of throwing accuracy (it was bad and still is). I was so excited to meet more families within the transplant community while in Orlando with Team Philadelphia!

Aside from competing, my favorite part was trading and collecting pins with all the participants. The goal was to get a pin from every state and international team. A small act but it meant the world to a young girl. For a week, I was not marked by a scar, no one asked “what happened”, fingers were not pointed, and stares were not beaming in my direction. I was just like everyone else with a unique battle wound.

The Transplant Games are a big reason as to why I am so active today. It gave me something special. A community of individuals just like me and families just like mine. It also gave me my passion for sports, not for winning, but for the feeling it gives you while participating. It is freeing. It is the little light that helps kids and adults who are going through the transplant journey or any difficult time. It is the “normalcy” that we all seek. Growing up I fell in love with playing field hockey, basketball and lacrosse because I was not the girl who received a transplant. I was Alissa Norris the athlete.

Now fast forward almost 20 years since competing in the games; I played 3 sports all 4 years of high school, played 2 NCAA sports in college, completed 3 half marathons, set a PR for a 10 miler, ran countless 5Ks with colors and obstacles and somehow, I always find a way to make a casual activity competitive. But out of all those accomplishments the most important and cherished experience is getting to run around with my nephews. How about that for a liver transplant recipient!

Life is not all sunshine and roses, everyone’s path may be different. But if given the chance, remember to always put one foot in front of the other and to smile because you were given a second chance 😊.

P.S. I won a gold medal with my 4 X 400 relay team (Go Team Live and Philadelphia) and placed second in the long jump and you can guess how the softball toss went—

For more information about the U.S. Transplant Games and the World Transplant Games please check out the link below. Let me know if you decide to participate!

World Transplant Games:

~ A Fellow Transplant Recipient,

Alissa Norris

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