A young transplant patient will be representing the region on the ski slopes in a bid to do her donor proud.
Rachel Hooley is preparing to jet off to La Chapelle D’Abondance in France next week to take part in the Nicholas Cup ski competition, which runs along side the Winter World Transplant Games.
The nine-year-old, who underwent a heart transplant at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, will be taking on the challenge alongside other young transplant patients just 23 months after her life-saving operation.
Rachel, from Cramlington, Northumberland, said she was excited to be heading abroad for the contest, she said: “All I know so far is that we’ll be having a ski lesson and then there’s the big competition. I’m really really excited about it.”
She added: “I am so looking forward to taking part, to live my life to the full, just like my donor would want.”
The Nicholas Cup is reserved for transplant children who have never skied, aged from eight to 17-years-old. Rachel will be competing in the competition for Team GB.
The team, which is made up of youngsters who have all had organ transplants, will be competing against 24 other teams in a variety of sports at the Winter World Transplant Games, including cross-country skiing, slalom, parallel slalom, snowboarding, curling, and many more.
It was in January 2012 when Rachel became unwell while she was at school, and her parents – Eve and Michael – were shocked when doctors said she was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure.
Soon after she was admitted to the Freeman, they were told the condition was so grave that she should go on the heart transplant list straight away. If necessary, she would be placed on a Berlin heart, a mechanical pump which would act as her heart.
But on February 10, just 11 days after officially being on the transplant list, a heart came in and Rachel underwent a lifesaving transplant.
It’s been a long road to recovery since then for the Northburn Primary pupil but that didn’t stop her taking part in the British Transplant Games later the same year and the youngster is aiming to repeat her success in the upcoming competition.
Proud mum Eve said her daughter wasn’t letting the nerves get to her: “She just takes everything as it comes especially when she’s been through such anxiety in her life, she’s learnt to take things very laid back.
“From the day Rachel was diagnosed she had a very stubborn, laid back attitude and that’s what gets children through.”
Eve says Rachel’s efforts in the Nicholas Cup will act as a further tribute to the heart donor that ensured she was still here today.
“For her age she’s very aware and thoughtful in that respect. At Christmas time she even hangs a heart-shaped bauble on the tree,” added Eve.
The Winter Transplant Games and the Nicholas Cup provide an opportunity for transplant athletes to enjoy their new lease of life and to demonstrate the benefits of organ donation.
Lynne Holt, team manager and trustee at Transplant Sport, said: “Many of our transplant athletes have experienced near death situations and long illness, and it is very gratifying to see them able to enjoy a full life, thanks to organ donation.
“Hopefully this international event will encourage others to sign on to the Organ Donor Register, but most importantly, discuss their final wishes with their families.”