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Sport and Physical Activity – important stepping stones for transplant recipients to get back into life

By June 17, 2024No Comments

Kidney transplant recipient Qunnie Westwood and her family know the value of physical activity and sport more than most. Auskick, athletics and calisthenics are the 10-year-old’s favourite sports. Looking at her now, you would never guess her start to life.

Quinnie Westwood

Quinnie, from Geelong, was born with end-stage kidney failure from a lack of oxygen and, sadly, after the death of her identical twin sister at birth. She spent the first two and a half years of life on dialysis before receiving a kidney in the Australian Paired Kidney Exchange.

Today her life revolves around sport and physical activity with calisthenics being her main love. Her mum, Clare, says it takes a lot of practice and focus but she absolutely loves it.

 Around 1,500 people receive a life-saving transplant in Australia every year and research shows the importance of physical activity and sport as important stepping stones back to full rehabilitation and a quality of life never imagined.

However, recipients face major barriers to re-engaging in sport and physical activity, including fear of movement, lack of confidence and physical literacy, fear of injury and poor social networks.

At the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Transplantation Society of Australia & New Zealand in Melbourne today (June 16), Transplant Australia announced a program to elevate the importance of sport and physical activity in the post-transplant care model.

The Transplant Active Program has been made possible with a $280,000 grant from the Australian Sports Commission’s Playwell Program. The Assistant Minister for Health, The Hon Ged Kearney, joined Transplant Australia in announcing the program. Transplant Active will ensure that every recipient has a place in sport no matter their location or their physical ability.

 Transplant Australia CEO, Chris Thomas, said role models don’t usually come in the form of 10-year-old children however Quinnie was a model example of what recipients could achieve post-transplant.

“All credit to Quinnie and her mum, Clare. Being as healthy as possible around a transplanted organ is the best way each recipient can protect their gift for life.”

Joining Quinnie at the announcement was Melbourne’s Nigel Goldsworthy who this November will celebrate 50 years with his kidney transplant. Also at the launch were lung recipient Jade Mitchell, celebrating six years post transplant on the day, and kidney recipient, Ross Minichilli.

“Transplant Australia is committed to helping recipients throughout their entire transplant journey and we can see that in the lives of these four recipients, Mr Thomas said.

“We were pleased each of them participated in the World Transplant Games in Perth last year. Ross achieved four World Transplant Games Records in the pool and as co-captain of the Australian swim team was also a wonderful role model.”

Ross Minichilli, Nigel Goldsworthy, Minister Kearney, Quinnie Westwood and Jade Mitchell

Key Facts

  • Movement is essential in post-transplant recovery. However, research demonstrates recipients have a ‘fear’ of movement and this leads to sedentary behaviour and increased comorbidities.
  • Every transplant costs hundred of thousands of dollars and gives recipients a greatly improved quality of life. Yet transplant units are often over-stretched in terms of providing guidance beyond the medical needs of recipients.
  • Recipients report that exercise and sport as part of rehabilitation are recommended rarely as part of transplant care (never 24%, when first transplanted 32%, occasionally 27% and regularly 16%).
  • The Transplant Active Program will work collaboratively with the Transplantation Society of Australia & New Zealand and the Transplant Nurses Association to place activity back in the heart of post-transplant care.

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