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Former Ireland soccer player, Niall Quinn pictured with Bridie Nicholson.

Former Ireland soccer player, Niall Quinn pictured with Bridie Nicholson.

Former Ireland soccer player, Niall Quinn pictured with Bridie Nicholson.

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Sligo transplant recipient Bridie Nicholson is a shining example of someone who has triumphed over adversity.

Sligo transplant recipient Bridie Nicholson is a shining example of someone who has triumphed over adversity.

It's 14 years since she received a kidney and pancreatic transplant. It was a lifechanging event from which she has managed to draw inspiration.

"Thank God I've been in good health ever since," she says.

Next month, the Sligo librarian will compete at the World Transplant Games in South Africa.

"Organ failure is a lifelong commitment to the health services. The medical profession gets to know me and I get to know them.

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"I attend four hospitals in Dublin on a regular basis but my primary carer is a wonderful man, Mr David Hickey.

"Mr Hickey is the director of Transplantation at Beaumont Hospital. I call him God."

She adds: "It is a pleasure to attend his clinics. His genius, genuineness, warmth and compassion speak volumes of the man.

"I met him first as a very ill patient on dialysis. He brought me through this illness, through the miracle of a combined transplant to where I am today competing for Ireland at a world event.

"When I won gold for Ireland in Thailand, my doctors wrote me a lovely congratulatory letter. It brought tears to my eyes.

"On that occasion I also received a letter from Mary McAleese, then President of Ireland."

Bridie says it can be difficult for people to comprehend how others with ill health can accept their fate.

"During life people learn to adapt to their limitations as well as gains and achievements.

"Those of us who have worked our way through serious and life threatening illness get pleasures from our apparentingly diminished lives.

"This is despite the sometimes held view that such an existence would be intolerable.

"Health is borrowed. It is not something that is given to us.

"The most valuable things in life are those that cannot be bought.

"Every moment counts: every organ counts."

The 19th World Transplant Games is being held in Durban, South Africa from July 28th – August 4th.

Bridie is the only Sligo person and the only double transplant on the 24-strong Irish team.

She will be competing in the 50-59 years age category in a number of events, including petanque and racewalking.

Bridie had won several medals in the past both at European and World games.

She remains cautiously optimistic about her chances in South Africa.

"Medals are hard got at World level but sure you can only do your best.

"Going to the Games is stepping in to the unknown. But the games bring more than sport.

"It's the friendship and camaraderie, the sharing of stories and the starting of friendships than span a lifetime.

"Sport is the greatest and the most dynamic vehicle for demonstrating to the public the benefits of organ donation."

Bridie says she is living proof that donor cards save and transform people's lives.

"My life has been saved by the incredibly brave and unselfish actions of my donor and donor family.

"My life is dedicated to encouraging others to carry donor cards and educating the public on the importance of organ donation. "

Bridie first got involved in transplant sports in 2004.

Her most proud moment is the gold medal she got in singles petanque at the 2007 World Transplant Games in Bangkok.

"That was something very special. The whole trip was wonderful and it was fantastic to see such a beautiful country.

"I met Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden.

"Meeting Mohamed Ali at the World Transplant games in Thailand was a poignant moment.

"I recall all the talk about him when came to Dublin in 1972 to box Al 'Blue' Lewis.

"However, the people I most admire are ordinary people who live extraordinary lives," she says.

Petanque, which is a form of boules, and lawn bowls would be her favourite sports.

She gets to practice at Mitchell Curley Park.

"It's the best Petanque rink in Ireland," she says. Bridie also enjoys walking along the shores of Lough GIll.

Bridie will be amongst 1000 athletes from 50 countries participating across 50 events in Durban.

She was delighted to meet up with the Irish team and retired Irish international soccer player, Niall Quinn.

He gave a motivational talk to the group when they gathered for training at the ALSAA sports complex near Dublin airport.

The Irish team has all received organ transplants including kidney, pancreas, liver, and heart.

Seven of the kidney recipients received their transplant from living donors.

The Irish team ranges in age from 12 to 68.


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