Harris County-Houston Sports Authority Insider

World Transplant Games give participants a shot to honor donors

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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Yordan Alvarez had four hits on Tuesday night. Composite Getty Image.

Salvador Perez hit a game-ending single in the 10th inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Houston Astros 4-3 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

Garrett Hampson began the Kansas City 10th on second as the automatic runner, replacing Vinnie Pasquantino. Hampson raced home when Perez led off the inning with a single to center against Wander Suero (0-1).

“We’re gonna play hard,” Perez said. “We’re gonna do our best, especially right now. We've got new comfort.”

James McArthur (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

Perez and Nelson Velázquez each had two hits for the Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. and Maikel Garcia each drove in a run.

Nick Anderson, Chris Stratton, John Schreiber and McArthur combined for five scoreless innings of four-hit ball in relief of Royals starter Cole Ragans.

“These guys are incredible,” Ragans said of the bullpen. “They pitched incredible. They kept us right there. That’s really, really big.”

Witt's biggest contribution may have been a diving stop on a two-out single by Jeremy Peña in the top of the 10th. Had the ball gotten past the young shortstop, the Astros likely would have taken the lead.

“I thought it did have a chance of going through,” Peña said. “I’ll shout out to Bobby Witt. (He) made a nice play.”

Yordan Alvarez had four hits and two RBIs for Houston, which had won two in a row. Peña had two hits and scored a run.

The Astros loaded the bases with three straight singles to start the first inning, but Ragans limited the damage to a run-scoring fielder’s choice for Yainer Diaz.

“I don’t think (Ragans) had his best stuff,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “That’s a good lineup, and they made him work. (But) if we turn that double play in the first or he’s able to get Alvarez out one of those times with two strikes, he’s coming out of there with one or maybe no runs. Credit to him really."

Alvarez singled in Peña with two out in the second, and then doubled home Mauricio Dubón in the fourth.

Ragans surrendered 10 hits in five innings for Kansas City. He struck out five and walked one.

Houston went 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

“We had some opportunities to get some guys in (with) less than two outs," Houston manager Joe Espada said. "We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Houston right-hander Cristian Javier was charged with three runs, two earned, and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Maikel Garcia’s sacrifice fly in the fifth stopped Javier’s scoreless streak at 15 innings to start the season. Witt drove in Hunter Renfroe with a two-out triple, and then scored on an error on third baseman Alex Bregman.

TRANSACTIONS

Astros: Placed LHP Framber Valdez on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. They selected the contract of Suero from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his place. The Astros also recalled LHP Parker Mushinski from Sugar Land and optioned RHP Blair Henley to the minors. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Astros transferred RHP Oliver Ortega to the 60-day IL.

Royals: Acquired RHP Colin Selby from Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Connor Oliver. To make room on the 40-man roster for Selby, LHP Josh Taylor was moved to the 60-day IL. The Royals also signed RHP Zach Davies to a minor league deal.

UP NEXT

The Astros and Royals continue their three-game series Wednesday. RHP Spencer Arrighetti will make his major league debut for Houston against Seth Lugo (1-0, 0.71 ERA).

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