Transplant Patients Bring Home Medals

Two IU Health patients recently returned from the Transplant Games of America with medals to show for their athletic competitions. 

Smiles. That’s what they are wearing. Never mind the medals around their necks. They are grinning from ear to ear.

Standing atop a winner’s podium, posing with fellow athletes, and celebrating living donors at opening ceremonies – Brook Zander and Dylan Deem were all smiles at the recent Transplant Games of America in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“I’ve had the honor and absolute pleasure to meet incredibly courageous people, and create memorable still frames of times I’ll cherish forever in my soul,” wrote Deem. At the age of four he was diagnosed with Synovial Cell sarcoma and was treated with a partial left leg amputation and high doses of chemotherapy. He has received two heart transplants at IU Health. Zander received a double lung transplant at IU Health in 2015.

Both patients have prepared for months to participate in the 2018 Transplant Games – competing in bowling and track and field events. The games are an opportunity to show the world that transplantation is a treatment that works to help restore health. Over the years, it has grown to an event that brings together patients and donor families.

“I didn’t have medaling finishes in either bowling doubles or mixed doubles, but I met a few awesome heart recipients who are 27-years post-transplant which is an amazing feat,” said Deem, who scored a bronze finish in discus.

The Transplant Games of America, the producer of the Donate Life Transplant Games reports 116,425 patients in the United States are awaiting organ donation. Of those, 96,483 are awaiting a new kidney; 14,245 are awaiting a liver transplant; and 3,992 are awaiting a heart transplant. Donate Life reports another person is added to the waiting list for organ transplantation every ten minutes and 22 people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time. Organ, eye, and tissue donors can register at the Donate Life website.

After attending the tribute to organ donors, Deem said: “These donors make the gift of life possible for those of us with transplants. I was humbled, and inspired hearing their stories. I have been fortunate with a renewed life thanks to organ donation.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.