July 17, 2024

Healt Hid

Because health is very important to us

Transplant Games have special meaning for Vestavia resident

3 min read

For Vestavia Hills resident Ann Rayburn, the upcoming Transplant Games of America, which will take place throughout the Birmingham area on July 5-10, are of both professional and personal interest.

For the last 26 years, Rayburn has worked for Legacy of Hope, Birmingham’s primary organ and tissue procurement organization. 

As the director of education, Rayburn has spent her career advocating for organ donors and recipients from all over the nation. However, Rayburn is also an organ donor and the daughter of an organ and tissue donor. 

In 2016, Rayburn donated a kidney to one of her closest friends, Tess Bourge, who suffered from polycystic kidney disease, a condition in which clusters of cysts form within the kidneys, causing the organs to lose function over time. “We’re getting ready to celebrate our eight-year anniversary,” Rayburn said.

Then, last July, Rayburn’s father, Joseph Boschert, passed away at the age of 89. A registered organ donor, Boschert donated his eyes for scientific research and his bone and skin for transplant. 

“One of the reasons I like to share my dad’s story is that a lot of folks think, ‘I’m too old, I can’t donate. I can’t help people,’ and it’s just not true,” she said. “He was a registered donor, and he would be happy to know that he was able to do that.”

This month, Rayburn and other Legacy of Hope employees and volunteers will be busy manning stations for The Transplant Games and helping them run smoothly.

The Transplant Games bring together thousands of organ donors and recipients from all 50 states and abroad to participate in 20 competitions ranging from tennis, basketball, golf and swimming to ballroom dancing and a trivia challenge. Vestavia Lanes will host singles and doubles bowling events.

The games will allow Birmingham to showcase its medical community, including UAB, which is considered one of the nation’s top transplant hospitals. It will also give recipients, donors and families a chance to come together to celebrate organ donation.

Legacy of Hope is under the UAB Medicine umbrella and will have a large presence at the Expo Hall inside the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex, Rayburn said. 

As one of the main sponsors of the Transplant Games, Legacy of Hope will also be heavily involved in manning the reflection room, a space where recipients, living donors and deceased donor family members can find a few moments of peace and tranquility. 

“The games are exciting, and it’s wonderful for transplant recipients to have their lives restored, but there’s a degree of sadness because most often somebody lost their life and then they helped people, which is wonderful,” Rayburn said. “But I think it’s nice to have a place where people can be quiet and reflect on it.” 

In the end, Rayburn said the true heroes of the Transplant Games are the competitors, many of whom have overcome life-threatening challenges with grace and an infectious passion for life.

“I keep thinking about how hard they have worked to maintain their health, and then to be an athlete on top of that is inspiring,” Rayburn said. “My hat’s off to those folks.”

To learn more about the Transplant Games, visit transplantgamesofamerica.org.


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