A kidney transplant saved Scott Robertson’s life, and the inspiration of an Olympics-like opportunity has rejuvenated his spirit.
The 53-year-old, first-year Business Administration–Human Resources student – and, previously, a grad of the college’s Culinary program – was working as a cook in the oil-fields of Alberta when he first became ill in 2013.
“I thought it was bad heart-burn at first, with really bad pain radiating in my chest,” he recalled during a recent interview.
The preliminary, emergency-room diagnosis was a gall bladder problem, but subsequent tests soon revealed a much more dire situation.
Scott’s astronomically high blood pressure (225-over-116 at one point), coupled with diabetes, had led to stage-four kidney failure. His two kidneys – the organs that process and eliminate toxins from the body – were functioning at 15 percent of their normal, healthy level.
Repair by medication or any other method was impossible.
Long-term, Scott needed an organ transplant to survive.
He returned to his native Windsor with a blood-pressure situation which put him in a “walking stroke” category. Initially, he was in such bad shape that a transplant wasn’t considered viable because he was viewed as a having a poor chance of survival.
But, over the course of almost two years, “with great medical care both here and in London” – and with toxins cleansed from his system by dialysis (mechanical kidney processing) – his base-condition improved to the extent that he was placed on the transplant list.
On August 23, 2015, the life-saving generosity of an organ donor saw Scott receive a new kidney.
“I’ve got three kidneys, now,” he explained. “If the existing ones (located in the middle of one’s back) still have even a small bit of function, you keep them. My donor kidney is here,” he said, pointing to his lower abdomen. “It sort of freaks out X-ray technicians if I don’t tell them about it prior to having a scan.”
The first three months following the transplant were not particularly good ones. Significant advances that have been made over the years in anti-rejection medications. However, the reduced immune system of such patients cause even minor infections to become major. Scott encountered several such setbacks, and was in and out of hospitals in Windsor and London for long stretches of time.
He was on disability and “seriously depressed” for over a year. “You’d think you’d be thrilled after a life-saving operation. But, as I once told one of my doctors, a transplant patient can feel like Frankenstein’s Monster: I’ve got a part in me that doesn’t belong to me,” Scott said. “The physical aspect of it may be a cure, but there’s a psychological hurdle that you have to overcome too … at least, there was for me. I kept thinking, ‘Well, you’ve got this new shot at life now. What are you going to do with it?’”
His “transplantation of a new spirit” occurred in May of 2018.
At that time, his interest was piqued when he came across information about the Canada Transplant Games, and, subsequently, the World Transplant Games.
“A light sort of went off in my head. Here’s something I can do to celebrate what I’ve been given, and spread the word about the importance of organ donations to others,” he said.
That is, precisely, the philosophy of such games. The World Transplant Games Federation’s website explains:
“For over 35 years, the World Transplant Games Federation has been staging international sporting events and promoting education about transplantation in order to promote the physical success of transplant surgery, and the need to raise public awareness and increase organ donation. Through our various initiatives, we aim to highlight the importance of physical activity and healthy lifestyle in the long-term management and well-being of transplant recipients. We achieve these objectives through the hosting of the Summer and Winter World Transplant Games, along with education platforms (medical research, conferences and physical well-being culture), and a strong communications program geared to network with medical professionals and engage the entire transplant community.”
Worldtransplantgames.org – the site for the 2019 Summer Games – adds:
“Entry is open to recipients of life-supporting allografts (tissues and organs) and heamopoetic cell transplants (bone marrow and stem cells) from other individuals or species, which require or have required the use of immunosuppressive drug therapies … (Also …) Donor Families and living donors are invited to take part in a select array of sporting events.”
The Summer Games are held in odd-numbered years. This August, they are being staged in the twin-community of Newcastle-Gateshead, England.
After learning about the event, “I just had a feeling that I was supposed to be there,” Scott said. “The day of the closing ceremony falls on the fourth anniversary of my transplant.”
Perusing the list of over a dozen athletic competitions (with categories for children, adults and seniors), Scott settled on two sports that he’d played in his younger years: ten-pin bowling and archery.
The latter is not a sport that is usually featured in either the Canadian national or global games, “but every host-country gets to add a sport or two to the international event – and, given its history with archery (Robin Hood, etc.), the British organizers added archery to the 2019 Games.”
His renewed zest for life – exemplified by joining archery clubs and bowling league – also spurred some intellectual activity: Scott re-enrolled at the college as a “mature” student. He just completed his first semester in the Human Resources program, with a 3.5 Grade Point Average. “I’ve got a lot of math in the second semester, so that’s going to be a real challenge,” he noted.
And his Games-related math may be a challenge too.
He’s already got his $1,300 bow, $250 targeting sight, and quiver of carbon-shafted arrows ($110 per dozen) in-hand.
But the expenses associated with his Michigan-based archery coach, the registration fee for the Games (about $1,300), airfare and lodging haven’t been addressed yet.
“Sponsorships, donations, fundraising, GoFundMe – it’s fair to say all options are on the table,” Scott said.
“I’m a student and an alumnus, so certainly anything the college community could do for me would be much appreciated. I’d be happy to sport the college crest at the Games, so I’d be representing St. Clair, Windsor and Canada while I competed.”
Registration for the Games is underway now, and closes in early-May …
… So, during the next few months, if anyone in the St. Clair community has funding ideas for Scott, he welcomes emailed messages at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the Canada Transplant Games, go to: https://www.canadiantransplant.com/canadian-transplant-games
For more information about the World Transplant Games, go to:
For more information about organ donation in Canada – and to make sure that you are one, if that is your intention, go to: https://beadonor.ca/
… AND …
St. Clair students and staff have other opportunities this month to be life-saving donors:
• On Thursday, January 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the “old” Student Centre (lounge area near the entrance to the main Computer Lab), the Student Representative Council and Katelyn Bedard Memorial Association will jointly stage the annual “Swab Clinic” for prospective bone-marrow and stem-cell donors. Learn more at: http://www.givemarrow.net/
• And, on Thursday, January 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., also in the Student Centre, Canadian Blood Services will stage its monthly, on-campus donor clinic. Learn more at: https://blood.ca/en