Heart transplant patient finds strength and inspiration in leading patients to the Transplant Games of America
HOUSTON—(July 16, 2012) — Born with a heart defect and diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2004, Brian Gilliam was told he would need a heart transplant to stay alive. He was against the idea.
“I felt I had lived a good life and I didn’t want to take the organ away from a younger person who needed it,” Gilliam said. “After talking it over with my family, I changed my mind.”
Since that time he has been an advocate for transplant; encouraging patients, promoting organ donation and living life to the fullest. In 2010, Gilliam took part in the National Kidney Foundation Transplant Games as a member of the golf team. He found the experience inspiring and rewarding. He was set to take part in this year’s games, but last November, the games were abruptly canceled.
“I was devastated for myself and the rest of the team,” Gilliam said. “It meant so much to all of us to take part in the games that the cancellation was like a punch in the gut.”
Then a group from Grand Rapids, MI decided to host the games. More than 1,000 athletes will descend on Grand Valley State University July 28-31 to take part in 17 different sporting events including biking, track and field and golf.
More than three years after his transplant at the Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center in Houston, Gilliam is heading up Team Texas that will be taking 86 transplant recipients, living donors, donor families and supporters. People like Mandi Lusby, who won 7 medals in 2010 and Dana Reader, who won four, and John Anderson, who will be one of the oldest members of the team at age 74.
“Brian is a perfect example of how advancements in medications and transplant surgery are helping ;people live normal, healthy, productive lives,” said Dr. Guillermo Torre-Amione, Gilliam’s cardiologist with the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Houston. “These games are a great opportunity for patients to show the world that there is life after transplant.”
”I can’t wait to get to Grand Rapids and see teams from all over the country,” Gilliam said. “While we want to win, these games are about fellowship as much as competition. It’s just awesome.”Follow the athlete’s progress on Twitter at: