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Twice Blessed: Inspirational Local Tackling the World Stage

Published on Monday, 1 May 2023 at 9:33:54 AM

Twice Blessed

Chesney Maloney's life has been a testament to the power of organ donation and the resilience of the human spirit. At just 37 years old, she has already been through more medical procedures than most people go through in a lifetime.

At the age of 20, Chesney received her first transplant from her mum who courageously gave her a kidney, and a second chance at life. “I always say my mum gave me life three times - first at birth, second with a kidney, and third when I was able to have my beautiful daughter [thanks to her gift],” she said.

When Chesney fell ill again at the age of 33, she had to go on the transplant list. During the long and enduring wait for a kidney, Chesney was placed on peritoneal dialysis (PD). PD is a treatment used for kidney failure that removes excess fluid, corrects electrolyte issues, and remove toxins in the body.  Chesney had to do this treatment four times a day - sometimes at work, or while she was driving her daughter to her dance classes in Toodyay. When travelling interstate, her dialysis equipment would even have to be sent in advance to the state she was going to.

For nine months, this was her life. It wasn’t until the third call that she finally received her life saving kidney transplant from an unknown donor who she refers to as ‘Dan’. “I am so very thankful to the young man that saved my life. He has given me so many opportunities in life, I would do anything to thank his family,” she said.

Through her sickness, Chesney had to give up a lot of the community work she was involved with, and her husband Mark had to run their business and take care of their home. Their then five-year-old daughter, Olivia, even pitched in to help her mum. Chesney describes her as the strongest and most inspiring little girl she knows. “She [Olivia] would get herself ready for school, she would hold my hair in the morning while I was sick, she would get me a bucket in the afternoon when I would come home from work and collapse being sick,” Chesney explained.

When Chesney received the gift of life through organ donation for a second time, it meant that she and her loved ones could finally do more things together and live a more normal life as a family.

Chesney's story highlights the need for organ donation, as in Australia alone, there are currently 1,800 people waitlisted for a life-saving transplant and a further 14,000 people on dialysis who may benefit from a kidney transplant. Despite the majority of Australians supporting organ donation, only 36 per cent are registered to be a donor. This highlights the need to promote organ donation and encourage people across the world to register as donors.

Chesney’s message for those who want to become an organ donor is, “please share your wishes with your family as they are the final decision.”

Tackling the World Stage

The World Transplant Games is an international sporting event held every two years for people who have undergone organ transplantation, whether it be through donation or as a recipient. First held in Portsmouth in the UK in 1978, the Games have since grown to become the world’s largest awareness event for organ donation, with the key purpose to celebrate a second chance at life and promote health and fitness of post-transplant patients.

The 24th World Transplant Games took place in Perth from April 15 – 21, featuring 17 different sports and attracting more than 1500 people from across 46 countries. For Merredin local Chesney, it was her first time donning the Aussie uniform, after learning about the Games through a fellow transplant patient. The decision to participate in the Games was easy for her, as she jumped at the opportunity to honour both of her donors, as well as thank her specialists, doctors and nurses that had helped her during her transplant journeys.

Despite not signing up as a competitor until late and only being able to participate in a few of the training camps, Chesney was able to win three medals for Australia – bronze in volleyball, silver in the 100m breaststroke, and silver in the basketball. She rounded out her events with a valiant 4th in the 50m backstroke.

Although her basketball team had never trained together before, Chesney said they all ‘clicked’ and worked well together. Chesney said, “A comment was made from another country – ‘you Aussies are amazing, you don’t train together but come out and win’. I think most Australians once they hit the court are very competitive and quickly realise each other’s strengths. Our coach was amazing, she could just read the game and know where we would all fit in.”

Chesney was quick to give praise to the event, saying it was the atmosphere that was the standout highlight for her. Every person she met from each country that had been through the transplant process was so grateful for their second chance, and it was easy to connect with them because they had been through similar things.

“After this we spoke about different things we had been through [with our transplants], it was nice to sit down and talk with other people just like me. I am very blessed to have so much support from family and friends but now I have more friends to help me through difficult times,” she said.

Chesney explained there were also special moments throughout the Games that will stay with her forever, such as athletes from different countries cheering each other on. She said there was even an Australian athlete who missed his event due to being in hospital, and the USA athlete who won the event visited him at his hotel after and gave him his Gold Medal.

“To hear the young athletes laughing and giggling was the best sound, I know what they have been through and able to talk and laugh with others like them was wonderful to watch,” she said.

The 25th World Transplant Games are due to be held in Germany in 2025, and Chesney is already planning her trip overseas, and has even commenced her training.

We look forward to cheering her on all the way from Merredin as she hits the world stage for a second time!

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