UK's first successful transplant baby welcomes World Transplant Games coming to Sunderland

Kaylee-Ann Davidson-Olley
Kaylee-Ann Davidson-Olley

She was the UK's first successful transplant baby when she was given a new heart back in 1987 at the age of just five months.

And now Sunderland-born Kaylee-Ann Davidson-Olley says she cannot wait until the World Transplant Games come to the city.

Now 32, Kaylee has taken part in five of the games and won a gold medal in athletics in the 2013 games in Durban, South Africa.

Although her health means she won't be taking part this time, Kaylee has been asked to act as ambassador at this summer's event.

Kaylee, who now lives in Houghton, said: "I’m really looking forward to it, I literally can’t wait, I'm counting down the sleeps to the games.

"Unfortunately I’m not competing because I haven’t been very well. But they have asked me to be an ambassador for the games which involves looking after people, speaking the media and supporting athletes from round the world and their families."

Sunderland is hosting three of the World Transplant Games' sporting events - swimming, road cycling and ten pin bowling- when the event comes to the North East between August 17-24.

The games are expected to attract around 1,300 participants, aged from four to 80+ from 61 countries.

The swimming events will be staged at Sunderland Aquatic Centre, road cycling at Hetton Lyons Country Park and Ten Pin Bowling at AMF Bowling Washington.

Kaylee added: "We honestly didn’t think we would get them, but to have the World Transplant Games in the North East means the world to us. I'm really proud it's here and to be able to show how amazing our city is.

"I think it will bring people together as well as hopefully focussing awareness on organ donation and encouraging more people to sign the organ donation register, especially when they see the huge impact it has around the world.

Fiona Brown, Executive Director of Neighbourhoods at Sunderland City Council said: "Kaylee's story is a real inspiration to others. She's an excellent ambassador for the World Transplant Games.

"Like Kaylee, we're very proud to be hosting three of The World Transplant Games' sports in Sunderland this summer.

"This builds on the success of events like the National Cyclocross at Hetton Lyons Country Park in 2018 and the Tall Ships Races which brought in the region of 1.2 million visitors to the city last summer, the Airshow, the Illuminations and Festival of Light, and more recently the Leonardo exhibition which all contribute to Sunderland’s growing reputation as an events city.

"We hope lots of people will come along to watch the swimming, cycling and ten pin bowling events in Sunderland and be inspired by the athletes taking part to sign up to be organ donors."

The purpose of the games is to raise public awareness and acceptance of organ donation and encourage people to sign up as organ donors and discuss their wishes with their loved ones.

At any one time there are around 5,900 people on the transplant waiting list and on average three people die every day who could have benefited from organ donation.

Kaylee said: "Talk to your family and make sure your next of kin knows what your wishes are.

"It’s a two minute conversation, say 'I want to do this' and make sure your next of kin knows your wishes because otherwise they could say it’s not happening. To me my donor left a legacy to me and my family and it's part of them that lives on inside me."

Anyone who hasn't already done so can sign up the NHS Organ donor register at: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/."