Outstanding Athletes Named at the National Kidney Foundation 2008 U.S. Transplant Games

2006 Most Outstanding Female winner Tracy Copeland awards 2008 Most Outstanding Female Jennifer Searl

Paul Deboer of Grand Rapids, Michigan and Jennifer Searl of Peabody, Massachusetts were named the Outstanding Male and Female Athletes at the National Kidney Foundation 2008 U.S. Transplant Games held in Pittsburgh, July 11th to 16th.

The U.S. Transplant Games is an Olympic-style event for athletes who have received life-saving organ transplants of every type - kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and bone marrow. This year, more than 1,300 transplant athletes competed for gold, silver and bronze medals in 12 different sports, including track and field, swimming, tennis, basketball, cycling and golf. Thousands of living donors, donor family members and other supporters accompanied these athletes at the Games. Presented biennially by the National Kidney Foundation since 1990, the U.S. Transplant Games draw participants from all over the country who are organized into 50 state teams.

Deboer, a 23-year-old kidney transplant recipient and first-time U.S. Transplant Games participant, is currently studying elementary education at Grand Valley State University.

2008 Most Outstanding Male winner
Paul Deboer

Paul racked up three gold medals in swimming events and silver medals in cycling, track and field and basketball events. An avid swimmer and water polo player, Paul became ill in 2002 and lost his ability to succeed in the sports at which he used to excel. Eventually, Paul was told he would need a kidney transplant, and a non-related church acquaintance stepped forward and became his donor. He received his transplant in July of 2003.

"I think the Games really prove that organ donation is successful and necessary," says Paul. "I won't miss another year at the [Transplant] Games."

Searl, a 28-year-old kidney and bone marrow transplant recipient, won four gold medals at the Games in two swimming events, the 1500 meter run and in the 5K road race.

At 13, Searl learned at a routine checkup that she had less than 15 percent kidney function. Two kidney transplants and a bone marrow transplant later, she went on to participate in three Boston Marathons and her second National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games event. She hopes to complete her first triathlon this fall.

"I am still not used to having a healthy body," says Searl. "Thanks to organ donation, I know life is precious, and I participated in the Transplant Games to push myself to my athletic limits and showcase the success of transplantation."