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Meet the Teesside Teacher Who Won Eight Medals at the World Transplant Games

Charlotte Douglas with medal and holding GB Flag
June 2023
Reading time 3 Minutes

In 2017 Teessider Charlotte Douglas went to get what she thought would be a regular blood test for her Crohn's disease. It ended up saving her life

The blood test revealed there was something wrong with her kidney, leading her to get a transplant just two years later. Having received the life saving kidney transplant from her mum, Charlotte started training in the hope of going to the Transplant Games and last month she achieved her goal, taking part in the World Transplant Games in Perth, Australia and winning an impressive eight medals. We spoke to her to find out more.

When did you find out you would need a kidney transplant?
So these blood tests picked up that my kidney function was deteriorating but they weren’t quite sure what was causing it. I had biopsies and blood tests done but they never quite figured out what was going on, other than my kidney function was still deteriorating and they couldn’t stop it. They said that I would have to have a transplant and my mam, who was in the appointment with me at that time, immediately volunteered herself to get tested to see if she could donate one of her kidneys. Luckily when all the tests came back she was a match so we were able to go ahead with that process and I got a kidney from my mam in 2019.

When did you get back into sport afterwards?
After my transplant I had a couple of months to recover where I wasn’t really allowed to do any sort of exercise but once I was able to, I started running. At first I just did it for fun with my dad, then we got more into it over lockdown when we had a bit of extra spare time and I started doing runs up to half marathon distance. I then found out about the Transplant Games and I was really keen to get involved in them. It just sounded like a fun event to do and also it was somewhere that I could meet other people that were similar to me. I didn’t know anyone else who’d had a transplant at this point so I thought it was quite nice to meet other people that had been through similar things to me. They don’t do long distance events, so started training for the events that I could compete in such as the 5k, 1500m and 800m.

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Charlotte running a relay competition

How did you end up competing for Britain?
At first I just did all of my training by myself, then last summer I competed in the British and the European Transplant Games which you can just sign up for, attend and see how you do. Because I did well at the summer games, in October I got a letter to say that I’d been selected to be part of the British team and go to the World Games in Australia. I was really excited about that because I would never have thought I would be travelling there to do sport!

How do you fit training around being a teacher?
My typical day is quite busy. I have my regular school day as a teacher and usually I’ll get home from work between 4pm and 5pm. Then I’m back out to go to running club by 6 o’clock. I quite often don’t get back until after 9pm and end up eating very late so it’s a long day, a couple of times a week. But it’s what I enjoy, so it’s worth it.

Tell us about the World Transplant Games that took place in Australia this April.
The games were amazing! There were more than 1,000 competitors from 47 different countries and it was so great to see that many people all in a similar situation, all having had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant, and they were all there competing, doing their best in their chosen sport. It was a really impressive event and definitely something I’m keen to get involved with again if I can. I got eight medals which was brilliant. Some of those medals were part of a team effort, for example the relay, so it was nice not only to do it for myself but also do it as part of a group as well.

What does it mean to represent and win for your country?
It was an amazing feeling. It was one of those things where I was so excited all the way up until going and then when I was there I felt this pressure. It wasn’t pressure in a bad way, but a pressure to perform well and do your best because you’re there not only for yourself but for other people who have had transplants, you’re there for whoever donated your organ, and you’re there to represent the country. So it was kind of a pressure but in a nice way – almost a motivating factor!

What’s your favourite thing about the sport?
I think for me it’s the goals I set myself. I like working towards a goal and with running there’s always the next thing to be working towards, whether it’s improving your time or improving how far you can run. I like to set a goal and I like to keep meeting those goals and progressing. So I think it’s that ability to always be able to improve at it.

What are your your goals from here?
In July we have a British Transplant Games which is held in Coventry this year, so I’ll be going to that and I’m hoping to just keep working on my events and hopefully improve my times again. I want to see that time going down. Then hopefully by the next World Transplant Games I’ll have improved even more and be closer to the rest of the competition that beat me this time.

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Charlotte with her family holding GB Flag
Charlotte sporting all her medals
Charlotte with GB team mates

What do you love most about being based in the North East?
Oh that’s a good question. I think that for me it’s what I’ve always known. All my friends and my family are here, I even went to university in Durham so I’ve always kind of stuck by the North East. I think it’s just a friendly, welcoming place and I feel at home here. I also spend a lot of time with my mum – she took up walking when she was preparing for the transplant so we quite often go on walks together.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I think the only thing that I always like to promote is the importance of organ donation and how it helps so many people. I get to see all those people that organ donation helps and I always like to encourage everyone who hasn’t already to share their wishes on organ donation with their family just so they know where you want your organs to go. I just always like to encourage people to do that!

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