Rhos Player Lee’s Transplant Journey

Rhos on Sea LTC player Lee McLaughlin has undergone an amazing journey after receiving the news he needed a kidney transplant. He became Mens’ singles champion at the British Transplant Games and travelled to the World Transplant Games in Perth, Australia, to represent GB and Northern Ireland, achieving the target of bringing back a medal in memory of his late brother.

Lee became hooked on tennis after watching a 17-year-old Boris Becker win Wimbledon. Ever since then the sport has been a huge part of his life. Playing regularly, as well as keeping him fit, he enjoys the social side of tennis, and the opportunities to travel it brings. Summing up what tennis means to him said: “Happiness. Playing tennis, watching tennis, talking or even thinking about tennis is enough to lift my mood and makes me happy.”

Lee had a relatively short three-month wait for a suitable donor and kept playing right up until the transplant, although he said a game of tennis would wipe him out for a day-or-two.

After the transplant he was raring to get playing again. He said: “I couldn’t wait to get back on court. Unfortunately, whilst the kidney was working fine, I was left with nerve damage in my abdomen from the surgery that severely restricted my mobility for six months. Once that pain became manageable, I was back at the club playing in 15-minute bursts to get back into the swing.”

As he continued his return, with an enforced break because of Covid-19, his brother – who’d also undergone a kidney transplant – told him about the British Transplant Games, and it changed his life.

He went to the British Transplant Games in Leeds, where he was crowned Mens’ champion in the singles tennis. Lee said: “I was proud to win gold but the overall feeling from attending the games was one of hope. I saw so many people competing at sporting events despite their challenging personal circumstances. It was a very emotional and rewarding experience that left a hugely positive impression on me.”

Reflecting on his journey, he said: “I hope it inspires more people to play tennis, regardless of any physical constraints they may have. Most of all I hope the awareness we all raise will get more people around the world off the transplant list faster.

He added: “I’m proud to be representing our country and thankful to my family, friends and all the NHS staff who have supported me through this journey. Most of all I am thankful to the donor and their family without which I may not be around today. Representing them at the games is the highest of honours!”

Lee is keen to give back and has embarked on fundraising so that fellow transplant athletes can go to the World Transplant Games, fundraising that has included climbing Snowdon. He has a Just Giving page http://bit.ly/3U8Dp4T if you would like to contribute to the fundraising.