Robbie Thompson celebrates the 20th anniversary of his first heart transplant on July 21. To honour his donor family and to celebrate this milestone, the 21-year-old Courtenay resident will be participating in the World Transplant Games, Aug. 17-24 in Newcastle, UK.
Robbie plans to compete in the 50-metre freestyle swim, and the 10-kilometre cycling time trial.
“It’s the sports that I tend to be most able to do,” he said. “I can’t do track and field because of my heart and my muscle disease. Those are the sports that I’m best at that aren’t going to be too harmful to my body.”
Though still assembling his bike, Robbie hopes to be swimming most days in the countdown to Newcastle. He has started a training regimen at CBI Health.
This will be Thompson’s second trip to a World Transplant Games — the first was Australia, 2009 — but he’s competed in several national events. He won two cycling golds and a swimming gold at the 2018 Games in Vancouver.
“The World Transplant Games tend to be a little more competitive,” he said, noting Canada is among the “laid back” countries, while others have qualifying standards. “In my experience, it’s mostly just a lot of fun. The Canadian Games have always been a huge blast.”
Thompson, who is studying digital media studies at VIU in Nanaimo, recently attended a media and public speaking seminar hosted by BC Transplant.
“The logo we use is it takes two minutes (to register for organ donation). I didn’t have life before my transplant, because my transplant was at the start of my life. What I like to say is that it gave me a life.”
Robbie was just 18 months old when he underwent his first transplant. A few years later, he was listed for another transplant when cardiologists found that veins in his heart had become blocked, placing him at risk of a heart attack.
“I’ve been able to do a lot,” said Thompson, who has also competed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. He mostly trains on his own to prepare for swimming and cycling races.
During the school year, Robbie manned a BC Transplant booth to register people for organ donation. He often hears that people aren’t confident in terms of being too old, or not healthy enough to donate.
“You really don’t know until it actually comes up. There’s a potential to save eight lives when you donate, or even more than that.”
He notes a story of a 72-year-old man who donated organs to his 81-year-old brother.
“You are never too old to donate. Anybody can donate their organs.”
A Go Fund Me campaign — Send Robbie to the World Transplant Games — has been set up to help him travel to Newcastle.
Help out at bit.ly/2EGvoyz
For more information about organ donation, visit transplant.bc.ca