As the Dundee FC Supporters’ Society’s community health initiatives gather pace, we welcome to Dens this Saturday “Revival Tayside”, a local group brought together by people who have had organ transplants and all with the same goal - to highlight the importance of organ donation, something without which they would have been lost. At half time on Saturday, a tug of war challenge between some of the group and a Dundee FC fans select will take place – the idea came from Revival chairman Sid Grant, who wanted to show that having an organ donated doesn't automatically mean the recipient will be weak or unfit, in fact it can mean quite the opposite. We also welcome MSP Joe Fitzpatrick, who wants to show his support by helping sign fans up to the organ donor register; Joe will also take part in the challenge.
Society Community Director Jacqui Robertson spoke to Andrew Wilson (pictured) and Sid Grant, who have both had donated organs and have a very important message for our fans. Andrew became part of Revival almost five years ago. "I received a kidney transplant in 2006 and quite soon after that I joined Revival because I realised how important it was. They sent a team every year down to the transplant games so I joined up even though I wasn't particularly sporty, but I've been competing for 3 years now and I've won a bronze medal at British level in the race walk, so I'm kind of chuffed with that. I'm hoping to maybe compete in swimming next year."
While what Andrew has achieved may be beyond the healthiest of us, he has had a training partner for whom he has a lot of respect, someone who has become a bit of a celebrity at Dens. "I hadn't done much training for the last two years but I did more this year with the help of Ronnie McIntosh, which has helped with my fitness. I think everyone at Dundee Football Club knows Ronnie. He has been an inspiration and has pushed me along and we push each other along. I think we both broke our personal best because we were racing together and pushing each other."
Admitting that going through illness, dialysis and a transplant has been difficult at times, Andrew's attitude could not be more positive. "Having had the transplant I tend to think how lucky I am really. When I was on dialysis things could get quite difficult – you get quite tired and you try to do all the things you normally do but you just can't – you don't have the energy. With a kidney transplant I have more energy. When you have your down days, like everyone does, it's a bit of a pick me up to think you wouldn't be here without the transplant so I think that keeps you going."
The half time tug of war challenge, while outwardly being fun, has a serious message attached, which Andrew put into his own words. "I think it shows that once you've had a transplant you can pretty much lead a normal life – and hopefully we'll beat the fans. As soon as you mention any illness I think people immediately think you're stuck in your house unable to do anything but with a transplant you're pretty much back to normal. I think MSP Joe Fitzpatrick will have to work hard to keep up with us! It's great that we've got people like Joe coming along and helping to promote organ donation. The statistics are that you're more likely to need an organ than have to donate one at any point and I think it's important that people realise that. Come and speak to us and have a think about it, talk to us about what it's like to have a transplant. You don't have to sign up on the day and you don't have to sign up at all, but at least think about it."
Chairman Sid Grant was one of the original group who saw Revival blossom as a group having had his own experience. "25 years ago I developed kidney problems, spent a number of years on dialysis, and 21 years ago I got a kidney transplant. At that time Tayside was not harvesting nearly as many organs as it should be so a group of us got together to discuss what we could do to help and we formed Revival. The charity then produced a three part donor card. Part one was the part you carry in your wallet, part two was a postcard to give to your family so they would know what your wishes were and part three was the registration. We used the slogan 'be wise, get organised' and we've stuck with that ever since. Revival has been going for 22 years and I've had my transplant for 21 years."
Sid was delighted to be invited to Dens and believes that this will provide a chance for them to reach a wider audience. "I think it's very important. It's something that involves everybody and because we are based at Ninewells Hospital and the football club is also in Dundee we've got a lot to offer each other because all the fans could potentially sign the organ donor register. Hopefully only a few of them may need a transplant at some point in the future but the point is, we're there to help one another. I think it's very important that we get this message out on a local basis."
Revival will have an information stand in the Bobby Cox concourse on Saturday as well as volunteers around the ground so that everyone who wants to has a chance to show their support and hopefully sign up. Donor cards can be filled in on the day or can be taken away and posted freepost, or there will also be the option of signing up online which takes just minutes.