Truckee boy trains for Transplant Games
The only difference between 7-year-old Colby Clement and his classmates at Glenshire Elementary School is the fact that he has undergone two life-saving organ transplants.
“Looking at him, you would never know he has health issues,” said father Glen Clement.
That has not always been the case for Colby.
The soon-to-be-second-grader was born with a genetic disorder that caused him to require a kidney transplant at just 5 months old.
Despite a successful kidney donation from his father, Colby’s health complications persisted and in May 2006, he endured another organ transplant in which he received a new liver from the body of a child donor.
Nowadays ” aside from the tic-tac-toe board of scars across Colby’s stomach ” his health is improving and he is starting to live life much like any other child his age, said mother Becky Clement.
“It’s been two years since his last transplant and this is the healthiest he’s been his whole life,” she said.
That’s why the Clement family has made it a priority to raise funds so Colby can participate in the National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh, Pa. on July 11, Becky Clement said.
“The games help show that post-transplant people can be healthy, happy and live life,” she said. “He has been through so much and had so many hard days so when we saw how excited he was about the games, we knew we had to do what we could to make it happen.”
The Truckee Rotary Club helped get the Clements a step closer to Pittsburgh by donating $1,000, but the family still needs close to $1,500 more for registration fees, airfare, accommodation and food, Becky Clement said.
Competing in the Transplant Games not only raises awareness of the importance of organ donation, but also helps transplant recipients build camaraderie, self-confidence and athleticism, said Chief Executive Officer Chris Kelley of the National Kidney Foundation of Northern California.
“It’s really a way for folks to re-energize and get on with their lives in a sense after they’ve had a transplant,” Kelley said. “It also raises awareness about the need to consider organ donation.”
The Olympic-styled competition serves as the largest gathering of transplant recipients and donor families in the world, and if the Clement family reaches their fundraising goal, Colby would be the youngest member of Team NorCal ” one of many teams from all 50 states competing for gold, silver and bronze medals, Kelley said.
For Colby, the trip is just as symbolic.
While clambering between his parent’s laps on Thursday afternoon, the 7-year-old slowed down for a second to say he wants to compete “so people can stay alive.”
In preparation for the competition, Colby said he has been swimming and running, adding that he is now “faster than mom.”
For his parents, the opportunity to call attention to the shortage of organ and tissue donors, as well as the success of transplantation is the most important reason to attend, Glen Clement said.
“There are so many people who are waiting for a donation who need it,” he said. “It is truly one of the most important gifts you can give ” the gift of life.”