James ‘privileged and proud’ to play at Transplant Games

James Kirby
James Kirby

Eastbourne teenager James Kirby took part in this year’s World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa, just three years after having a life-saving kidney transplant.

Nineteen-year-old James has had two kidney transplants in 12 years and after the first transplant from his mother was rejected by his body, he was placed on the National Organ Donor Register.

Now, three years on, James competed as a member of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the Games, which ran from the July, 28 to August, 4 2013.

Despite being touch and go for the Games after suffering a significant ankle injury just a week before leaving for Durban, James was on the plane to South Africa and made it to the hotel, albeit in a wheelchair.

Through hours of rehabilitation in the UK with Polegate physiotherapist Sarah Leeper and intensive treatment from the Team GB physiotherapists in Durban, James fulfilled his dream of representing his country in the Rainbow Nation.

James fought courageously to beat an Austrian pair and was unlucky not to make it to the final round. His efforts and determination, however, were recognised by Team GB management and by a South African court official, who stated he had never seen such sportsmanship on the court.

Talking about James, the official stated, ‘Through adversity, character has grown together with humanity.’

James’ father Rupert Kirby spoke of his enormous pride for his son following the Games, and thought James’ dream of representing his country would not come true after he underwent his first kidney transplant at just seven-years-old.

“He was the youngest to represent the country when he participated in 2007, but since his second transplant he has been looking even more forward to the Games.

“Our thoughts now are to keep his sport up, though he has came back with this ankle injury. We wanted to raise his general health and the profile of the Games, and I feel we have done that.

“James will now keep up with tennis, alongside his new job at an accountancy firm, and he hopes to represent again in 2015.”

In the Games, the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team stormed to the top of the medal charts, taking home 243 medals in total - 114 gold, 74 silver and 55 bronze - which was yards ahead of nearest rivals USA, Australia and hosts South Africa.

The team was also presented the ‘Best Team Award’, which was picked up by Team Manager and Trustee at Transplant Sport, Lynee Holt

James’ father also spoke of his relief that James was found a donor very early after going on the list (National Organ Donor Register) and would urge people to join.

“He went on the organ donation register and he was very lucky. He was only on the list for a relatively short time compared to many people and then we got the call.

“The really important thing to us is how many people that are still on that list and we want to raise the profile of it.”

More than 135 Transplant Sport athletes descended on the Rainbow Nation from the UK and James recognised how privileged he was to take part.

He said, “I was proud to have represented my country in Durban and very grateful for the generosity of the donor of my kidney and their family. Without them, I would not be able to compete.”