Later this month a Chichester squash player who has overcome ill health through a successful organ donation will compete for Team GB and NI at the World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa.
Joe Dunster’s goal is to win a gold medal and retain the World Transplant Games squash title he won in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2011.
The 33-year-old works at MindWorks Marketing in Emsworth and trains at Chichester Racquets & Fitness Club and will be competing in his second World Transplant Games 12 years after receiving a life-saving kidney transplant.
The Games (July 28 to August 4), supported by the International Olympic Committee, is held every two years and represents the largest organ donor awareness event in the world.
Being selected on to Team GB and NI is just the beginning - it is an enormous commitment of both time and money. For ten months, athletes need to keep fit, regularly train in their sports, attend team training meets, publicise the event and raise £2,000 to fund the trip.
A 310-strong GB and NI team will soon descend on Durban, including team managers, physiotherapists, doctors, coaches, supporters and 150 transplant athletes.
More than 1,000 athletes of all ages from 55 countries around the globe will compete in more than 50 sporting events in the hope of winning gold for their country, celebrating life, and in doing so, paying tribute to their donors.
Throughout his childhood, Dunster suffered with kidney problems and was treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital. At 17, his condition worsened and he was forced into giving up college and putting his sport playing on hold.
Two years later he was diagnosed with kidney failure. He spent a further two years on the organ transplant waiting list and undertook dialysis four times a day but in August 2000 he received a life-changing transplant.
Years of ill health, operations and lack of good dialysis took its toll. Twelve years on, Dunster is fighting fit and enjoying competitive sport again. His kidney transplant has changed his life and opened up opportunities like the World Transplant Games.
The chance to compete in competitions like the British and World Transplant Games has rejuvenated Dunster’s interest in squash and love of sport in general.
He said: “From a young age I was always very sporty but kidney failure certainly put a stop to that. It knocked me for six and it took me a long time to recover. When you suffer a debilitating illness you suddenly realise how important your health is. Having a transplant certainly gave me a second chance at life and I’m trying to make the most of it.
“Since my transplant I have graduated from university, established a career in marketing and won medals at the both the British and World Transplant Games in squash, golf and badminton.
“Recently I have also travelled and worked abroad, and since arriving back in England, Chichester Racquets & Fitness Club have generously allowed me to train and get fit for the games. More importantly, over the past six months I have been fundraising and sharing my story – transplants really do transform lives!”
You can sponsor Joe at justgiving.com/joe-dunster, follow his progress at the games on Twitter @joedunster or read his blog dunsterlikesto.tumblr.com