The heart of an athlete

Virginie Laurendeau is ten years old and lives in Pincourt, Quebec with her parents and older brother. Looking at Virginie you?ll see a typical energetic ten-year old girl; she loves to run around with her friends, she is a member of the local swimming club, rides her bicycle and loves to laugh, just like any other child her age. But if you dig a bit deeper, you?ll discover that Virginie is very different from the other children in her neighbourhood.

When Virginie was three years old, she was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that affects 1 in every 1,000 Canadians. Her medical team and parents decided not to put her on medication because the side effects could have been just as devastating for her heart as the disease itself. It wasn?t until three years later, in 2001, that Virginie?s state of health started to deteriorate. The only option remaining was transplantation. In December 2001, after all the necessary tests were performed, Virginie?s name was added to Transplant-Quebec?s waiting list for organ donation. Fortunately, It only took 27 days to find a matching heart. On January 8, 2002, Virginie received her new heart at the Montreal Children?s Hospital.

Today, Virginie is getting ready to participate for the first time in the XV World Transplant Games that are taking place in London, Ontario, from July 16 to 24. Virginie will take part in five events ? swimming: 50 m backstroke and 50 m freestyle, athletics: 50 m race, cricket ball throw and long jump ? her performance will demonstrate how successful organ donation and transplantation can be! Virginie, along with 80 other children attending the games this year, will see her registration fees waived by a donation from Astellas Pharma Canada, Inc., a research-based pharmaceutical company based in Markham Ontario and a first time sponsor of the Children?s Program.

Last year, more than 4,000 Canadians were waiting for an organ transplant but only 22% underwent transplant surgery. According to Virginie?s mother, Guylaine Ouellette, ?my daughter has always been a true fighter, and is growing up to be an exceptional young girl. It?s really amazing and I?m truly grateful to see that despite all the pressure, the pain, and the emotional stress, that Virginie is able to live a normal childhood. The most precious moments are those when she?s able to laugh freely, just as any other child would, without having to catch her breath.? Virginie is now slowly coming to realize that she went through a life changing experience, something she was not aware of at the time.

Astellas Pharma Canada, Inc. is proud to sponsor the Children?s Program and encourages youngsters to participate in the Games with the understanding that a healthy lifestyle is achievable after transplantation.

About the World Transplant Games

The World Transplant Games allow transplant patients from around the world to meet, share their experiences and express their sincere gratitude to their organ donors. The Games have been in existence for over 25 years when the first ?Transplant Olympics? were held in Portsmouth in 1978. Over 1,800 participants are registered for the 15th edition of the Games.

World Transplant Games? competitors must be aged between 4 and 80, medically fit, with no significant medical complications and have received their life-saving organ transplant more than one year before the Games.

Core sporting events include Track and Field, Swimming, Tennis, Table Tennis, Badminton, Squash, Golf, Cycling, Volleyball, Lawn Bowling and Ten Pin Bowling.