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August 15, 2006
More than 1,200 athletes competed in their own field of dreams at the National Kidney Foundation’s Olympic-style 2006 U.S. Transplant Games held in Louisville, Kentucky in June. They flew home bedecked with medals and brimming with memories of friendships forged and challenges met.
Sixteen year-old D.J. Lampert of St. Louis, Missouri, and forty two year-old Tracy Copeland of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, were honored with the Jerry Cound Outstanding Male and Female Athlete awards. A Transplant Games veteran, D.J. won gold medals in the 5K Road Race, softball throw, 100 meter relay, 400 meter relay and high jump. He also served Team St. Louis in the volleyball competition. These achievements are particularly astounding considering D.J.’s tenuous start in life. While most babies were learning to stand, D.J. was getting prepped for major surgery. Shortly after his birth, D.J. was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a disease that sent him to the OR for a liver transplant at the ripe old age of nine months. In addition to saving his life, D.J.’s transplant set his young life on a course of organ donation and transplant advocacy.
“At the Transplant Games I get to compete with people like me from all over the country who have had organ transplants, and show people everywhere that organ donation is important and that we are just like everyone else,” D.J. said. “I am so honored to have been named the Outstanding Male Athlete award...it is one of the proudest moments of my life.”
Tracy Copeland’s athletic performance was memorable. She won a record of 6 gold medals in a variety of sports -- 5K Road Race, 5K cycling, 20K cycling, 400 meter run, 4X100 relay, 1500 meter run. But what the audience at the Awards Ceremony will truly never forget is how Tracy accepted her award with her donor family by her side.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion to be the recipient of the Outstanding Female Athlete award, and humbled to be recognized in front of so many that have endured so much,” Tracy said. “Winning this award is a true testament to the gift of life my donor’s family has given me. It is an honor I proudly share with them. I have been blessed to compete beside incredible men and women that have overcome tremendous odds and now run, swim, ride, golf, and participate in many other activities that they were once unable to do.”
Eight years ago, Tracy Copeland lived a full and normal life as a wife and working mother of a 10-year-old daughter until one morning when she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that her eyes had turned yellow. A visit with her doctor revealed that she had a form of rapidly progressing liver disease. Fortunately for Tracy, a liver became available right away and two days after her doctor’s visit she underwent a transplant. Within a month, Tracy was home and after several weeks she had returned work. Today, Tracy competes in numerous cycling events, including the Death Ride, which took her through five California mountain passes, 16,000 feet of climbing and 129 miles of road.