Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 12:00 am
By Dave Hon
A year and a half ago, Brendan Elam had a liver transplant. He spent one Christmas in the hospital. Now, thanks to his donor, Brendan is an ordinary 12-year-old who just began seventh grade. He’s also an extraordinary boy who has competed in olympic games.
To be more accurate, he was an athlete in the Transplant Games of America, an event held every two years that allows other transplant recipients to compete while promoting the ever-growing need for organ donors in the United States. The games were July 11 to 15 in Houston.
“It was fun meeting other kids who had the same experience, getting to interact with them and becoming friends,” Brendan said.
Brendan competed in track and field events, basketball and table tennis, although he said track and field was his favorite. This semester, he plans on competing in cross country, as well as track and field, at Kearney Middle School.
“Just the field event, it’s just a lot of fun because you’re outside mostly, and basketball you’re inside a lot,” Brendan said. “That used to be my main sport, but I like track and field more.”
In track and field, Brendan competed in the 100-meter dash and a 4×400 relay. All competitors were allowed to do the high jump, long jump and softball throw. Brendan medaled in five events, earning a bronze in basketball, silver in high jump, bronze in the 4×400 relay, a bronze in the 100-meter dash and a bronze in the long jump.
“I wasn’t really able to do football before, so I mostly stuck with basketball,” Brendan said.
Jason and Stacey Elam, Brendan’s parents, said they were proud of their son.
“It’s been fun to see him turn around and be able to branch out a little bit more,” Jason said. “Before, he just didn’t have the energy to do some of that stuff.”
Brendan had the transplant because a genetic disorder caused a cirrhosis of the liver. Since his transplant, Brendan has grown six inches and gained 30 pounds.
“We look at pictures now and compare them to then, and he’s almost unrecognizable,” Jason said. “Just because of growth, and he’s filled out.”
The transplant gave Brendan more energy as well, and Brendan said that he’d never known anything other than being sick prior to receiving the new organ.
“He didn’t realize how bad he felt until he felt good,” Stacey said.
The Elams said the Transplant Games also help people become aware of the need for more organ donors. While preparing for the event, Texas added 500,000 people the registrant list. Missourians can register online at doantelife.net or by signing up when getting a driver’s license.
Jason said the need for organ donors is far reaching and high. There are 118,812 people waiting for organs, according to Transplant Games for America.
“And it depends on the region of the country you live in as well,” Jason said. “Here in the Midwest, the wait time on the list is relatively short, a couple months to a year, whereas on the coast it is more like a couple of years to five years.”
The Elams don’t know yet who donated Brendan’s liver, but they hope that someday they will be able to connect.