In 2001, Dot Duckworth found herself quickly losing her battle to liver disease as she desperately awaited an organ transplant. “I was going to be dead in probably a couple or three weeks,” she remembered. “I didn’t have a month to live, and I knew it and (my husband, Charlie) knew it.” But, as her condition worsened, a miracle occurred. The Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center granted Dot a second chance at life when she received a new, functioning liver.
Now healthy, upbeat and nearly 79 years old, Dot has become an advocate for organ donation, picking up bowling in her spare time to participate in the Transplant Games of America.
In her sixth Transplant Games – a multi-sport festival event held every two years for athletes who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries and living donors – Dot earned a gold medal in doubles bowling and a silver in singles.
Competing July 28-31 in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dot traveled with eight fellow transplant recipients from Kentucky, six of which underwent transplant surgery at the Jewish Hospital Transplant Center. The center also provided $200 in support for the athletes to help offset the cost of participating. The experience proved fruitful for Team Kentucky, who returned home from the Transplant Games with a total of 13 medals.
The Voice-Tribune caught up with Dot to learn more about her huge success at this year’s Transplant Games and her passionate involvement in creating awareness for organ donation.
Have you been bowling for a while now?
I really only bowl with my transplant team, but then, like two years ago, (Charlie) talked me into a bowling league, which we do on Friday mornings. And I really love it. I can’t believe I like it so well.
Did your life-saving transplant surgery inspire you to become more active in promoting organ donation?
It was my goal to spread the word about education about organ transplants, because when I was transplanted about 11 years ago, we would do all kinds of health care (promotion) for KODA (Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates) and people would just walk past. … But, today, this is 11 years later, it’s amazing what education has done. A lot of people are (becoming involved).
Did you participate in the Transplant Games in order to create more awareness?
Exactly. (To be able to show that) even though we’re transplanted we’re able to do this.
How do the Transplant games compare to the Olympics?
The rules are Olympic rules. And we have the opening ceremony with the big cauldron and torch bearers. It’s very similar in that aspect. Of course, it’s not the number of people, but it’s exciting. It really is.
What did you enjoy most about the Games?
I enjoy the people. I enjoy seeing other people who are transplanted, and you find out their stories and if they’ve met their donor or not. And I enjoy just the games in itself. The competition’s fun.
Will you try another sport if you return in two years?
No, I will not do another sport. If I get too bad (to the point that I) can’t bowl, I’ll probably do softball, which probably (when I throw the ball it) won’t go this far. (She laughed.) But that’s okay. It’s just the idea that you’re able to do it. I’m not a real competitive person. I didn’t expect any medals this time. I was just going to go to go and enjoy myself.
What else are you involved in, currently?
I belong to a group called Second Chance @ Life group, which is made of transplanted people and supporters, donor families, and we meet once a month. And this is one of our projects is to get (Donate Life) license plates in the state of Kentucky. … We have a support group at Jewish Hospital also that meets the second Wednesday of the month.
How would you summarize your experience with your six Transplant Games?
It’s just that fulfilling and seeing all these people. When we have the opening ceremonies, first off, the athletes come in by state, and then the living donors come in because we have quite a few of those now, and then the donor families come in, and there’s not a dry eye in the place because they gave us life.