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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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