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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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