Tumut local Bruce Giles has taken out gold and silver medals at the World Transplant Games in Spain, where every entrant has been the recipient of an organ donation.
Before his liver transplant approximately three years ago, Bruce lived with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis for 27 years. Now, he says his health is better than it’s ever been, and he’s taken up his old love of cycling with gusto.
After eight months of solid training he was the first placed entrant in the time trial, and second in the road race in his age category, with the 35th best time out of all 186 participants.
“Time trials are what they call a race of truth, because you go as hard as you possibly can, and there’s no tactics at all other than how strong you are,” Bruce explained.
“However in road races, here’s me the strongest rider, because that was shown the day before, but I didn’t win it because the other fella’s sprint was better than mine.
“[In the road race] I went out hard and got rid of a big section of the field early, which is what I wanted to do. I got it down to six, and then I got it down to five, and then four, and then I got it down to three, and as hard as I tried I couldn’t get rid of the other two. So it came down to a drag race sprint finish, and I got beaten. But that’s the way it goes!”
He was also chosen as one as one of three cyclists to represent Australia in the team trial, where they placed eleventh.
Fifty-nine Australian athletes travelled to Spain for the games, where they took out 26 gold, 27 silver, and 18 bronze, in a mammoth event that Bruce said parallels with the Paralympics. Athletes from 52 countries travelled for the games.
“It was a little bit emotional, because to actually get the chance to compete at anything for Australia is exceptional to start with, and to actually win something is quite special,” he said.
However, even if he hadn’t won anything, Bruce still would have achieved what is the primary purpose of competing for him – raising awareness of the life-saving gift of organ donation, and encouraging people to register as organ donors.
“I spent some time in Ward Nine in the Royal Prince Alfred,” he said.
“There’s sixty people in that ward, and probably a third won’t make it because there’s not enough organs. So the more people talk about it, the better chance there is of all those people continuing on with their lives.”
He also wants people to know that if someone receives an organ, it isn’t just going to keep them going for a few months or years – it really does revitalise them to the degree that they are able to live completely normal lives.
“In my case, I’m healthier now than I was ten years ago,” he said.
“I’ve had a second opportunity, I wouldn’t be here otherwise. It’s the same for all the others; there was one fellow there who’s had 42 years since transplant. He’s had a job for those 42 years, run a normal life…there’s a fellow from New Zealand who had a heart transplant seven years ago and he’s a company director and been at work since the transplant, and he’s quite healthy.
“The more people see how well these things can go, the more they’ll think of doing a transplant.”
Register to be an organ donor in two minutes at register.donatelife.gov.au.