William Latter feels most at home on the bowling green.
The Inverell youngster is excited to take on players from all over Australia this week as he competes in the Australian Transplant Games.
He is thrilled to play at the well known Broadbeach Bowling Club on the Gold Coast and says his favourite thing about lawn bowls is “meeting new people”.
The Games celebrate the second chance at life recipients of organ donations have been given, and showcases their renewed health on the sporting field. Around 700 sports men and women will compete in a range of activities including running, swimming, soccer, croquet, backgammon, scrabble and sudoku.
William is lucky enough to have no memory of his own transplant at age four, but for mum Bronwyn, the day remains clear in her mind.
Diagnosed at just 11-months-old with histiocytosis, a rare cancer-like disorder, William was fighting for his life from day one. He underwent chemotherapy for three and a half years, and every organ was attacked by the disease.
By the time he was called in for his liver transplant, the little boy had an enlarged stomach almost like a pregnant woman, yellow eyes, and had to be fed through a tube.
His tests began at midnight, and finally at 7.30am he was put into surgery, with the promise of going home after the doctors were done. For nine hours his family waited, hanging on to each update of his progress.
“It was a long day,” Bronwyn recalled.
“When he was physically able to open his eyes – the amazement of seeing white eyes – that it works that quick. It was unbelievable. From yellow eyes to white eyes.”
“As soon as he could talk ‘we can go home now mum!’”
Nicknamed ‘Charlie’, William and his family now celebrate a second birthday for his liver.
“Thank you is not enough,” said Bronwyn, who wishes she could meet the relatives of the woman who saved her son’s life. “We’re just thankful that there are families that are willing to donate their loved ones’ organs, because without them we wouldn’t have them. It’s a selfless act for them.”
The Games, she said, were not only a celebration of renewed health, but also a reminder to Australians of the importance of signing up to the Australian Organ Donor Registry. Anyone aged 16 or older can put their name on the national register.
“You don’t need your organs when you pass away,” Bronwyn said.
“One transplant can save up to seven people.”
Although many do specify their wishes on their licence, registering is essential to give clear information directly to medical professionals. Australians are also encouraged to discuss the decision with their family, who will have the final say.