"The Big O" To Champion Transplant Athletes

Columbus, OH
August 5, 1998

He scored more than 26,000 points and won an Olympic gold medal during his career as one of the greatest all-around players in basketball history. But tonight and throughout this week, Oscar Robertson will be presenting, not receiving, the medals as the National Spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation 1998 U.S. Transplant Games. He will light the torch and throw out the first ball at the basketball finals during this Olympic-style event for recipients of life-saving organ transplants of every type, including kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and bone marrow. The biennial Games will be held August 5-8 in Columbus on the campus of Ohio State University.

This record-setting, 14-year NBA veteran, made the assist of his lifetime last year when he donated one of his kidneys to his daughter, Tia, who suffered from kidney failure. Now fully recovered, Tia will be joining more than 1,500 transplant athletes from across the United States as they compete for medals in 13 different sports, including basketball, tennis, track and field, swimming, cycling and golf. The athletes will also pay tribute to the families of organ donors, many of whom will be present at the event.

"Everyone who competes in the U.S. Transplant Games is already a winner in the game of life. These athletes are living proof that transplantation works. I hope that, through their spirited participation in this event, they will inspire people to become organ donors," says Robertson.

More than 56,000 Americans are currently on the national waiting list for organ transplants and nine to ten will die each day while waiting. "Not everyone has a family member who can be his or her kidney donor. Right now, the average wait for a cadaveric kidney transplant is two and a half years and the wait for other vital organs, which must come from cadavers, ranges from three months for a heart to a year and a half for lungs. That’s why it’s critical that we raise awareness of the terrible organ shortage and move people to act," continues Robertson.

The National Kidney Foundation 1998 U.S. Transplant Games are sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Associate sponsors are The Coca-Cola Company, The Ohio State University Medical Center and United Resource Networks.

To become an organ donor, Robertson says, remember to discuss your decision with your family after signing the donor card, since family consent is necessary at the time of donation. For more information on the U.S. Transplant Games or a free organ donor card call the National Kidney Foundation at (800)622-9010.