Judy's heart is in Transplant Games

THE medals keep coming in for Judy Cavanagh and yet it is not the glory she is seeking but recognition for a cause that is literally dear to her heart.

Cavanagh has represented Australia at the last six World Transplant Games since receiving her “second heart” in 1995.

While Cavanagh is a top swimmer in her 60-69-year age bracket, clocking up some pretty fair times in the process, she admits prior to her life-changing operation things were very different.

“I was pretty slow before then,” she said.

The athlete said her condition began with a virus and resulted in valves failing to operate.

“The heart started getting larger and there was only one valve working,” she explained.

“I could exercise, but not for long.”

As they say, from that point every post was a winning post as Cavanagh became a part of the Australian team for the 1997 World Transplant Games, an event that takes place every second year, in Sydney.

“It is absolutely wonderful, the thrill of competition,” she said through a contented smile.

“All those athletes doing wonderful things they couldn't do before.”

This year the games were again in Australia and Cavanagh enjoyed the home venue, coming away from the Gold Coast event with two gold and two bronze medals.

She said apart from competition at the games she also enjoyed meeting people who, like herself, had overcome health problems by gaining a transplant and other people who provided support.

“A lot of donors' families come along to offer support and encouragement,” she said.

In their events the athletes are only graded by their age.

“In my races I was the only one with a heart transplant,” she said.

For Cavanagh the gold-winning performances came in the 50 metre butterfly, and the 200-metre individual medley while the bronze medals were collected when she was placed in the 50-metre backstroke and freestyle.

She also narrowly missed another medal when fourth in the 100-metre back stroke.

Despite the success, her real motivation and passion making people aware of what they can offer others.

“People of any age can be a donor, tissue can be used,” she said.

“One donor can provide six people with organs so long as they are matching.

“You can register online or through Medicare. They just have to let family know their wishes.”

The next World Transplant Games is in Sweden in 2011, but Cavanagh said she wouldn't be a part as she felt she had now done the journey which started in Australia and returned to her homeland some 12 years later.



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