Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Vicky Dorvee
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Niwot kidney recipient wins big at Transplant Games of America

 

August 24, 2018

Kidney donor Scott La Point and recipient Jim Eastman celebrate their efforts and success at the Transplant Games of American in SLC, UT.

It sounds like the beginning of a math question - two men, each with one kidney and one bike, pack into a car and take turns driving seven hours to a destination where they will compete in a 20K and a 5K cycling race. Those men were kidney transplant recipient Jim Eastman of Niwot, and his kidney donor, Scott La Point. Both men participated in the  annual Donate Life Transplant Games of America Aug. 2 to 7.

This year’s games were held in Salt Lake City, UT just 14 months after Eastman and La Point underwent their kidney transplant operations.

Both men, feeling strong and healthy, were happy to compete in the games where 20 types of events ranging from athletic endeavors of every kind, to Texas hold ’em poker, and even trivia contests take place. They were even more pleased to be part of the tremendous group of people (all of whom were either living donors, organ transplant recipients, or bone marrow, corneal or tissue recipients) and to support the Donate Life organization, which brings great exposure to the importance of organ donation.

Eastman came home exhausted. He said most of his fatigue was the result of the adrenaline and emotions he felt while being at the event rather than simply his physical efforts. He felt very moved, grateful and inspired. The men are part of Team Rocky Mountain, a group of 25 participants from Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, which as a whole, brought home 60 medals.  

La Point, who is 55, won the overall silver medal in the 20K cycling race and the overall bronze medal in the 5K cycling race, as well as a team gold medal in Pickleball. Eastman, 68 years old, won a gold medal in the 20K race for his age division and a bronze in the 5K race in his division.

Eastman’s 20K race required a huge effort because of tremendous head winds on the return portion of the course.

“It was rough!” Eastman recalled. “I’d passed this lady at the turn around and the wind was really rugged on me. She passed me back and I stayed on her wheel for a while. Then I yelled and asked if I could lead for a while, and we traded spots. Maybe a minute and half later, she asked me if I was tired. I said yes and she told me to just stay on her wheel, which I did for probably five miles to the finish race. I won the race in my age bracket by four seconds.”

It turns out the woman he was drafting behind was a double lung recipient. Her reaction to learning Eastman had won the gold medal was, “You know, we all need help sometimes.”

 

Eastmans’ older brother died 11 years ago and his heart and lungs were donated for transplantation. But Eastman has never met the recipient of his brother’s heart. Each time Eastman met a heart recipient at the games, he mentioned his brother and asked if he could listen to their hearts.

“I listened to over 60 hearts and not one person hesitated to let me put my ear on their chest to listen to the donated beating heart that was giving them life. I teared up with every one of them, it was so moving,” Eastman said.

Courtesy photo Jim Eastman and Scott La Point pose with the medals they won at the 2018 Transplant Games of America while they participated with Team Rocky Mountain. The three women in the photo were members of Team Kentucky. The women participated to honor their children, who had donated organs posthumously, and to bring attention to the importance of organ donations.

Eastman said he and La Point “met some of the most amazing people.” During the opening ceremony, relatives of those who donated organs posthumously, referred to as donor families, numbered more than 480. Each family carried a sign with their loved one’s photo.

“It was just amazing that these families would come to celebrate life and be around other donor families,” Eastman said. “And I understand that because I am from a donor family.”

The Guinness Book of World Records was asked to verify a world record gathering of the most organ recipients in one place. The group qualified for the record, breaking the previous record of 438 people, set earlier this year in Turkey, by gathering 540 transplant recipients for the SLC event.

“It was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had,” Eastman said. “We had 3200 athletes in all of the different events and numerous donor families and supporters. It was just an awesome place to be around so many other people who know how to give and receive life,” Eastman said of the entire event.

 

 

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