Harris County-Houston Sports Authority Insider

World Transplant Games give participants a shot to honor donors

Amy Frackowiak is a big part of the transplant games. Twitter.com

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The first time she stepped onto the basketball court as an adult on the national stage, Amy Frackowiak played almost the entire game.

OK. So it was half court basketball, but there are two other things worth noting about her debut.

First, the she was playing for Team Texas, a team of transplant recipients. Second, she was barely a year removed her surgery.

If she’d had it her way, Frackowiak would have debuted on the world stage at the World Transplant Games a year earlier – and just two months removed from that surgery. But doctors said no.

“So I set my eyes  on the U.S. games and I was hooked,’’ said the 37-year-old who works with potential kidney transplant patients at St. Luke’s Hospital.

The manager of Team Texas since 2014, Frackowiak has now competed in four U.S. games and two World Transplant Games.  

And you can count her as one of those cheering last week when it was announced Houston was chosen to host the 2021 World Transplant Games. It will mark the first time in 41 years the event has been played in America.

“It’s going to mean a lot to the recipients and donors,’’ she said. “A lot of patients don’t travel (overseas) because of the cost and not wanting to go that far.

“For them to be able to compete here, it’s going to be an amazing experience.”

Houston held the U.S. only event – the Transplant Games of America -- in 2014, which had the largest attendance in history at the time with 14 sports and 2,523 participants, including 800 athletes from Texas.

Houston could host another record-setter in 2021. The last time the event was in America was 1980, when New York hosted the third World Transplant Games.

The World Transplant Games is an annual event with Winter Games in even-numbered years and Summer Games in odd-numbered years.  The U.S. event, which is separate from the World Transplant Games, is held every two years.

Over the years, Frackowiak has competed in volleyball, basketball and track and field.

Back in 2009, she was completely healed two weeks after surgery and ready to fly to Sydney, Australia for the ’09 Games. “I hit the ground running and wasn’t looking back,’’ she said. But that’s when the doctors told her she would have to wait.

Every time she competes, she’s like any other athlete – anxious and excited.  “Once I’m there,’’ she said, “it’s pure adrenaline.’’

The Games are filled with stories like hers. They highlight the amazing things transplant patients – and now also their donors – can do after surgeries. They also highlight the need for donors.

According to statistics, one organ donor can save eight lives. One organ, eye and tissue donor can safe 50 lives.

When Houston hosted the 2014 U.S. event, Texas had about 4 million people on the donor registry. After the event and with the help of a campaign by the Texas Department of Safety to sign up drivers as donors when they renewed their licenses, pushed the number well past 8 million.

This year’s Transplant Games of America will be held in Salt Lake City in August and the 2019 World Transplant Games will be in Newcastle, Gateshead, UK.

Competitors at the 2021 WTG will compete at venues around the city, including Memorial Park and the University of Houston. And, even those used to their national or the European event will take a deep breath.

“The World Transplant Games,’’ Frackowiak said, “is on a different level.’’

But the focus? It will be the same.

“To compete and honor their donor,’’ she said, “and prove that donation works.”


 

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This is getting out of hand. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Allsport/Getty Images.

Dr. Rick warns his patients, young homeowners who are turning into their parents, you can expect to pay more for snacks and drinks at a movie theater. It's the same deal at a professional sports venue. Three years ago, I put a down payment on a cheeseburger at Toyota Center ... I still have three more payments to go before I get it.

But this is ridiculous. The PGA Championship, the lesser (least) of golf's majors, is charging $18 for a beer, a 25-ounce Michelob Ultra, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. It's $19 for a Stella Artois. You can buy a six-pack for less at the supermarket. Aren't there laws against price gouging, like during a hurricane? Isn't Tulsa where the Golden Hurricanes play? Get FEMA in here. Did tournament directors get together and ponder, how can we piss off our fans? Sure, it's Tulsa and there's not much else to do, but that's no excuse.

Charging $18 for a beer makes the concession stands at Minute Maid Park look like a Sunday morning farmer's market. A 25-ounce domestic beer during an Astros game is $13.49. A 25-ounce premium beer is $14.45. Yeah, that's high for a beer, but at Minute Maid Park there are lots of hands in the till. Aramark wants to make a profit, the taxman has big mitts, and the Astros want their cut, too. Look, you want to sign Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez to an extension or not? Then drink up and don't complain. Some quiet grumbling and head-shaking is permitted, however.

You know the PGA Championship is charging too much for a beer when even the rich pampered players take notice. "18 (!!!!!) for a beer ... uhhh what," former PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas tweeted. "Good thing I don't drink a lot."

Like he will be in line for a beer at a public concession booth, anyway.

Of course there will be fans sneaking in beer in baggies strapped to their ankles, like stuffing your pockets with store-bought Snickers before going to the movies. It doesn't have to be this way. The Masters, the most prestigious golf event, charges only $5 for both domestic and imported beer. I know it's a gimmick, part of The Masters mystique along with pimento sandwiches for $1.50, but still it's a welcome gesture. You never lose when you treat the public fairly. When Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank insisted that food vendors charge the same inside the stadium as they do at their regular restaurants. Same thing when Denver International Airport opened, fast food restaurants couldn't jack up their prices to their captive customers. Here? There needs to be a loan window outside the Cinnabon booth at Bush-Intercontinental.

Except for the Masters in Augusta, golf's majors aren't tied to a city. A major comes to a city maybe every few years or in most cases never. There's no need to ride into a city like the James Gang, rob the local bank, and high tail it out of town. Golf should be the last professional sport to stick it to fans. While the game has made strides to open its arms to lower-income youths, golf remains an elitist, extremely expensive sport for regular folk. Equipment is expensive, private courses are exclusive and country clubs are exclusionary. Public courses are less expensive but still expensive and crowded. Plus there's never been a professional sport more dangerously dominated by one person than golf. I can imagine network executives on their knees praying that Tiger Woods makes the cut and plays on weekends. Otherwise, TV ratings go straight into the toilet, you know, like whatever team Mattress Mack is betting on. (I joke because I love, and frankly a little scared.)

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