WORLD Kidney Week was made extra special at Livingstone Hospital last week, as a kidney transplant patient received his South African colours for athletics.
Mthunzi Fatyi, 30, received the colours at the Port Elizabeth hospital from World Transplant Games (WTG) local organising committee chairman Willie Uys.
Fatyi, a former rugby player, learnt at the age of 15 that he would need a transplant and that it would impact on his physical activity.
Now, the 30-year-old Rhodes University post-graduate education student is among 1800 athletes from 50 countries who will be participating in the WTG in Durban later this month.
“I am filled with pride and humbled by receiving and wearing the South African colours,” he said.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams I would get the chance to represent my country.”
Uys praised Fatyi’s never-say-die attitude and willingness to improve.
“When I saw him for the first time, I thought there was no way he was going to achieve this, but his grit and determination is what sets him apart,” Uys said.
Uys said the athlete was scared at his first national running event in August last year, “but once the gun went off, his confidence came bursting through”. Fatyi lead an active life before his transplant but was forced to quit rugby in 1998, when his kidneys became too weak.
He was put on dialysis later that year at the Livingstone Hospital and received a transplant in 2000.
“After I quit rugby, I thought it was the end for me and sport.
“While receiving dialysis, I saw a brochure about the games and thought that this is my second chance.
“I’m quite excited to be able to challenge my body,” Fatyi said.
Fatyi will compete in the 100m sprint and 5km speed-walk.
“I’m can’t wait to meet other people like me who have had transplants but are pushing themselves to do more.
“It will be nice to learn about other cultures as we meet competitors from all over the world,” he said.
The six-day WTG event in Durban starts next Sunday July 28.
All competitors need to have had either a heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas or bone marrow transplant.
Four South Africans hold WTG world records – and, at the last games in Sweden, South Africa bagged 17 gold, 17 silver and 14 bronze medals.
Livingstone Hospital renal unit chief Dr Rob Freercks said it was the first time in the centre’s history that a patient had achieved South African colours.
Three athletes from the Eastern Cape will form part of the 81-man South African team.
The other two Eastern Cape competitors are Robyn Emslie, 40, and Heilie Uys, 61 who also have received kidney transplants. Fitting as World Kidney Week was recently celebrated. Heilie also takes the position of team manager and will be competing in the golf, shot put, javelin, discus and ball throw. This will be her fifth games. Emslie is taking part in her third games and will be doing the lawn bowls, as well as the 3km and 10km race walk.