Team's athletes share bond of organ transplants


June 21, 2000|By Donna Koros Stramella | Donna Koros Stramella,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE 15 athletes of Team Maryland have a bond that goes deeper than other competitive teams'. All are acquainted with organ transplants - 13 of them as transplant recipients, and one man as a kidney donor.

The team is competing this week in the National Kidney Foundation's U.S. Transplant Games. About 6,000 athletes from across the country are showing their vitality after transplant during the competition at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando, Fla.

Maryland's squad includes three Anne Arundel County residents: Bruce Brooks of Riva, and Alexis Southworth and Eric Bredehoft, both from Glen Burnie.

Southworth, a 56-year-old clinical social worker and swimmer, participated in the last Transplant Games, which are held every two years. In the 1998 competition at Ohio State University, she placed fourth in a women's breaststroke event.

The athlete trained diligently for this year's swimming competition. She started with an exercise routine three days a week, but as the games neared, she worked out six days a week, swimming at least a half-mile, walking a mile, and working out with weights.

"When you swim, you need to cross-train," she said.

In 1976, Southworth was diagnosed with kidney failure after a bout with strep throat. She spent years on dialysis, and received her first kidney transplant in 1979, from her brother.

"It should have lasted my whole life, but because of surgical errors, I lost it," she said.

Dialysis was resumed until she received a second kidney in 1986. The donor was a 21-year-old Annapolis woman who had died.

Eric Bredehoft also received a kidney from a deceased donor, an organ flown from Georgia. The first Transplant Games in which Bredehoft competed were in Georgia. "That was pretty neat to take my kidney back home," he said.

The 41-year-old is participating in his fourth transplant games this week. A tenpin bowler for 15 years, with a 182 average, he will compete in the sport as an individual and as part of a team.

"I'm there to celebrate the life that someone gave to me," he said.

Brooks, the participant from Riva, is competing in his third Transplant Games. He received a heart in July 1991 after 14 months on an organ-need waiting list. The organ was from a deceased 31-year-old woman from Tennessee.

"I call it a very benevolent, random act of love," he said.

Brooks will compete in bowling and 5K walk/run events.

The Florida competition also includes athletes who received lung, pancreas, liver and bone marrow transplants.

But for all the stories of the people who gained new life from transplants, Southworth, a member of a gubernatorial commission on kidney disease, says much needs to be done to convince the public of the need for organ donors.

"There are," she says, "over 70,000 people nationwide waiting for transplants."

Marley's mural

Thirty-six Marley Middle School art pupils have left a little personal touch behind in departing for summer vacation or the move to high school.

The seventh- and eighth-graders in art teacher Sheila Brooks' classes spent the last weeks of the school year working on a mural that incorporated their interests.

After pupils sketched their ideas, seventh-grader Ashley Knight organized the individual contributions and came up with an overall design.

They worked on the mural with the assistance of artist-in-residence John Viles of Baltimore, who conducted workshops to help orient students to the art form.

Measuring 4 feet by 19 feet, the mural, a collage painted with bright latex on plywood, includes images from fields of science, and of nature, reading, writing and sports. It was installed across from the main office above a bank of lockers.

But because a new Marley Middle School building will eventually be constructed, the mural was designed to be portable. "It is removable so it can move to our new school," Brooks said.

In previous years, pupils created two other murals that are displayed in the cafeteria - and also will be moved to the new school.

A State Department of Education Challenge Grant covered the costs of this year's artist-in-residence program at Marley Middle.

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