On Monday 12 September, André Lassooij, a 58-year-old Dutch lung transplant recipient of 20 years, arrived at King’s College Hospital as part of his bike tour of 18 children’s transplant centres. The bike tour began on 27 August in Amsterdam and ends in Malaga on 31 October.
The aim of the cycling tour is to highlight the fact that there are children who need heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, small bowel and bone marrow transplants. Children who have had an organ transplant, often have spent long periods of their lives in hospitals, where exercise is not a priority. Transplant Sport aims to encourage exercise as part of rehabilitation after transplant, as this is just as important for these children as for their peers.
This epic bike ride is to draw attention to the importance of exercise for children with a transplanted organ. It also highlights the life-saving benefits of having an organ transplant. It is also Andre’s way of thanking all donor families for the gift of life. This cycling tour is organised through the foundation Life for Kids.
Andre will be joined along his route by cyclists who all have their own personal transplant experience. Alice Yelf from Nettlestead in Kent, who donated part of her liver to her son Bertie, met Andre from the Ferry in Dover on 8 September and cycled the first leg.
Along the way, Andre was also joined by Nick Ness from Chalfont St Giles, whose son Samuel had a liver transplant at King’s. Members of the King’s Transplant Team also joined Andre, including Niamh Whelan, Ward Manager on Rays of Sunshine Ward; Tamsin Jones, Paediatric Occupational Therapist; Professor Nigel Heaton, Clinical Director for Liver Transplantation; and Dr Jonathan Hind, Consultant in Paediatric Hepatology and Intestinal Transplantation.
The King’s Liver Transplant Unit runs the largest transplantation programme in Europe, carrying out more than 200 procedures a year. The service assesses and treats both adults and children from all over the country and abroad.
King’s provides an integrated multidisciplinary service that includes assessing patients’ suitability for transplantation, education and support for those on the transplant waiting list, transplant surgery with aftercare, and post-transplant care and follow-up.
Tanja Pardela, Paediatric Liver Matron at King’s said: “We’re proud to have been chosen as the only transplant centre Andre visits in the UK.
“Promoting physical activity in children who have had transplants is really important, and it’s vital that people recognise that their quality of life after a transplant can be excellent.
“At King’s, we always strive to give our transplant patients the very best care so they are able to lead healthy, active lives after their surgery.”
On arrival at King’s at 12pm, on Monday 12 September, there was a welcome committee of children who are waiting for, and who have had transplants. This was followed by some presentations by Andre, Nigel Heaton, Clinical Director for Liver Transplantation, and Lynne Holt, Transplant Sport Event Coordinator. The presentations gave information about some of the closely involved organisations such as: Transplant Sport UK, TACKERS, the World Transplant Games, and MAKE-A-WISH.
Being involved in transplantation can be very stressful and emotional. When children are involved, this applies even more. This bike tour is not just about raising public awareness, but educating the health professionals and care givers looking after these children.
Malcolm Mathews,TS Kids and Teens Coordinator, says: “Many of the transplant children have experienced near death situations and long illness, and it’s gratifying to see them able to enjoy a full life, thanks to organ donation. Hopefully, this event will enlighten all staff looking after these children, to focus more on the benefits of exercise and sport, and to encourage the children to join in more activities. We see first hand through all the sporting and social events offered by ourselves and the other organisations, how also the children’s confidence and self esteem develops.”