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National Organ and Tissue Donor Day, with the slogan 'A record-holding country'

Spain, world leader in transplants, hosts World Transplant Games for the first time, to start in Malaga on 25 June

Wednesday 7 June 2017

​"The Spanish transplant system is an example for the rest of the world to follow. Hence the importance that we give in Spain to hosting a sporting event such as the World Transplant Games, which will help increase the international projection of our country and enhance the image of our donation and transplantation model". These were the words of the Secretary General for Health and Consumption, Javier Castrodeza, during the press conference at the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality on the occasion of the National Organ, Tissue and Cell Donor Day being celebrated on Wednesday, 7 June.

Javier Castrodeza explained that the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, through the ONT, wanted to mark this day with the presentation of the 21st World Transplant Games which, for the first time ever, will be held in Spain. "With their effort, the transplant patients who are to compete in the Games are showing citizens that to donate organs is a thing worth doing", he added.

Secretary General Javier Castrodeza was accompanied by the Director General of the ONT, Beatriz Domínguez-Gil, the President of the  National Federation ALCER, Jesús Molinuevo, representing the various associations of transplant patients, and the president of the Spanish Transplant Sport Association, Mateo Ruiz. The latter organisation will be in charge of organising the World Transplant Games to kick off on 25 June this year, jointly with Malaga City Council and the Andalusian Transplant Coordination Service.

The National Organ and Tissue Donor Day is an initiative of the Federation of Associations for the Fight against Kidney Disease (ALCER), traditionally aided by the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, and currently with support from all the federations of transplant patients. It is held every year, on the first Wednesday of June. This year the slogan is 'A record-holding country'.

The purpose of this national day is to pay tribute to all donors and their families and remind society that every year organ donations save thousands of lives and help improve the quality of life of countless patients. In addition to ALCER and the Spanish Transplant Sport Association, also present at this event were the National Federation of Liver Transplant Patients, the National Federation of Heart Transplant Patients, the Federation of Cystic Fibrosis Patients, and the Association of Lymphoma, Melanoma and Leukaemia Patients.

The transplant Olympics

In line with the purpose of the National Organ Donor Day, the World Transplant Games aim to remind society of the importance of organ donation and the great vitality that transplant patients can regain, similar or in many cases even greater than that of their fellow citizens.

The World Transplant Games are organised by the World Transplant Games Federation, which is recognised by the International Olympic Committee. The Spanish Transplant Sport Association belongs to the World Transplant Games Federation and has succeeded in bringing the Games to Spain, with the support of the Andalusian Transplant Coordination Service and the team of medical professionals at the General University Hospital of Malaga.

The Games were first held in Portsmouth in 1978 with the participation of 99 athletes. They were promoted by the British surgeon Maurice Slapak, who decided to organise sports competitions for transplant patients in Britain as a way of stimulating and motivating patients, and to show society that there is life after a transplant and thus encourage people to become organ donors. Since then the games have been held every other year; a top-notch event in which health and sport come together.

15 sports

In this year's event over 2,218 transplant athletes from 52 different countries will take part. They will compete in 15 sports or games: athletics, badminton, basketball, bowls, cycling, darts, golf, kayaking, swimming, padel, petanca, squash, tennis, table tennis, and volleyball. The competitors are grouped by age and gender.

Javier Castrodeza also highlighted the high level of physical and mental preparation of the Spanish transplant sport squad, the sixth strongest in terms of number of competitors. The Spanish contingent is formed by 77 transplant athletes, four of whom are children. At previous games, the Spanish team flew the Spanish flag high by winning several gold, silver and bronze medals in cycling, athletics, mini-marathon, badminton, swimming and tennis.

In order to form part of the Spanish squad it is necessary:

  • To have had a kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant over a year ago.
  • To have the relevant medical authorisation to compete, in writing and signed by a doctor from a transplant unit.

According to experts, sport is one of the best therapies for the physical and psychological rehabilitation of transplant patients. "Behind every transplant patient there is a story of struggle and triumph over adversity" said the Director General of the ONT, Beatriz Dominguez-Gil.

In her opinion, the practice of sport is an example of the social responsibility that transplant patients should exhibit. "Thanks to the generosity of their fellow citizens, their transplant gives them a second chance of life. Taking care of their body is not only a medical recommendation but also a social obligation".

For Mateo Ruiz-Jódar, President of the Spanish Transplant Sport Association, "Sport is one of the ways that many transplant patients like myself have of showing our gratitude to society for the generosity they show by donating".

Meanwhile, Jesús Molinuevo, President of ALCER, underlines the importance of the fact that the number of donors in Spain has topped 43 donors per million inhabitants and that the number of donations continues to grow. "While there is a single patient on the waiting list, the donation of organs will continue to be an absolutely essential act of generosity".

Both the National Donor Day and the World Transplant Games have the backing of Mediaset Spain, which as part of its '12 Months' social responsibility project has decided to dedicate its traditional donation promotion campaign 'You are perfect for someone else' to the dissemination of the Games, from now until they finish.

Donation figures

The Director General of the ONT, Beatriz Dominguez-Gil, announced the provisional balance for donation and transplantation activity this year.

According to ONT date, Spain has recorded a 10.2% increase in the number of donors so far this year. If this rate of growth were to continue, by the end of 2017, our country could hit and surpass the target of 5,000 transplants, three years ahead of the targets set by the ONT in their Strategy 2015.

As at 15 May, transplants are also up by 11.5%: lung (+25%), liver (+17%) and kidney (+9.3%) are the transplants whose numbers have grown most.

Donation after circulatory death is up by 27% throughout the country. 84 Spanish hospitals already have programmes in place which include this type of donation, which has become the most important way of increasing the number of organs available for transplant, together with the collaboration of ER doctors.

The donation of bone marrow is also up by 15% in the first five months of the year, reaching a total of 323,857 donors.

"This is the best possible news we could have to celebrate this day, on which we want to express our gratitude to all Spanish society for its generosity to transplant patients and its support of the Spanish transplant system, and also to all the professionals of the transplant network", assured Dominguez-Gil

"We are a country that holds the record in terms of donations and transplantations and we want to continue to hold that record", added the Director General of the ONT, paraphrasing the slogan chosen by ALCER for National Donor Day. "We are going to continue working towards shortly hitting the 45 donors per million inhabitants mark, because we want to stay at the top of the world ranking for at least another 25 years", concluded Beatriz Domínguez-Gil.