Young athlete Zoe Buchanan, who had a kidney transplant two years ago, has added to her sporting achievements by winning a clutch of medals in the British Transplant Games. And to crown that she heard this week that she has been selected for Team GB in the World Transplant Games, to be held in South Africa next year.
Sports mad Zoe, 17, took four medals including two golds in this year’s British Transplant Games, building on her success of last year in which she won five medals. Her consistent performance both years, in spite of health problems, led to her selection for the international event.
Now back from Kent where this year’s British Transplant Games were held, Zoe said: “It was fantastic, I only found out the day before we left Glasgow [where Yorkhill Hospital checked her medical condition] that I was allowed to compete.” The games are open to anyone who has had a major organ transplant, and aim to raise awareness of transplants and forge friendships between families.
Zoe won gold for badminton, her favourite sport, which she started at the age of eight, repeating her success of last year. She also gained gold in the ball throw, an event similar to the shot put. Her two other medals were silver in table tennis and bronze in the 100 metres sprint, which replicated last year’s medals. Around 600 people took part, forming regional teams, as in the Olympics.
Zoe, a pupil at Anderson High School, was proud to captain the Scottish team, which meant she was a torch-bearer. “It was fantastic,” she said.
Having won gold for badminton twice and silver for table tennis twice Zoe led to her being selected for these events at the World Transplant Games.
This represents the pinnacle of her sporting achievements. “I was physically jumping up and down when I heard,” she said.
However her health problems continue and the past year has been far from plain sailing. Although she came through the kidney transplant, her depleted immune system led to her developing a serious heart condition afterwards. This meant she had not done much training prior to the games, and amazed herself by her medal tally.
Her proudest moment came when she unexpectedly won the badminton gold. She said: “In the final the lass I was playing against was 14-9 up. I said to myself ‘start moving’ and won the match.” And winning silver in table tennis was “pretty awesome”.
Zoe was able to compete in the games thanks to a kidney transplant, made possible by her mother Jill Bentley donating a kidney. Jill and her partner Colin Nicolson watched Zoe compete – even if Zoe had not been able to take part they would still have gone for the social aspect of the games.
Jill said: “The games are geared to bring people together, they create a network. Everybody’s the same there. Everybody’s got a story and it’s heart-rending. It [a transplant] affects the whole family because it’s such a huge process.”
And of her daughter’s achievements she said: “It was overwhelming as Zoe’s been very poorly this year. She didn’t feel confident but she’s a very determined young lady. Her badminton win was just incredible, she came back from six match points. And she put her heart and soul in the table tennis. I’m overwhelmingly proud of her, and I’m overjoyed she’s got the opportunity to compete for Team GB.”
And she joked: “My kidney’s never run so fast.”
Zoe’s condition means her health can never be taken for granted. She has to take quite a lot of time off school – she is studying Intermediate 2 this year and hopes eventually to qualify as a renal nurse. She said: “I can be fantastic one day and in hospital the next. I take each day as it comes.”
Sport has helped her throughout her life, however. When she was younger she was keen on football but had to give it up as being too rough, and BMX riding but “grew out of it”. Now she trains by playing badminton as often as possible.
She said: “Sport gives me something to look forward to and it relieves the stress of exams, punching a shuttlecock. I’ve never given up on sport and I never will.”
Zoe wishes to thank everyone who supported her and kept her going in the tough times. Now she will start fundraising for the trip she and Jill will make to Durban next year.