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Rural doctor races for organ donation Wuhan’s Transplant Games highlight need for increased awareness

By Wang Xiaoyu in Wuhan

For more than two decades, rural doctor Li Qianfeng has trav-ersed rugged and remote moun-tains in a Southwest China village, racing against time to save lives. 

The 45-year-old raced again on Wednesday. But this time, he ran on a smooth rubber track, and not for the purpose of overcoming ail-ments, but to champion the value of organ donation. 

Li, who received a kidney trans-plant in 2008, was one of about 400 organ recipients participat-ing in the 8th China Transplant Games that opened in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Tuesday, which coincided with this year’s China Organ Donation Day. 

“It was my first time participat-ing in the games,” he said. “I am very excited to be here to not only compete and connect with people with different backgrounds, but also to share our transplant expe-riences and showcase the power of organ donation.” 

Participants competed in vari-ous events, including track and field, table tennis, badminton and tug of war, according to the China Organ Transplantation Develop-ment Foundation, which jointly hosted the event with the Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Tech-nology and Tongji Hospital. 

The competitors, transplant recipients ranging in age from 9 to 78, came from 21 provincial-level regions. The transplants they received included kidney, liver, lung and bone marrow. 

Zhao Hongtao, chairman of the foundation, said the event aimed to raise awareness about organ donation, promote advances in organ transplantation technolo-gies and demonstrate the power such donations have to change people’s lives. 

This year’s event was the first since China announced its latest rules on organ donation and transplants last year, Zhao said. 

“The document outlining the new rules highlights ‘donation’ in its title, signifying China’s com-mitment to promoting organ donation and aligning itself with global standards,” he said. 

In 2015, voluntary donations became the only legitimate way people could receive organ trans-plants in China. Since then, the country has seen more than 160,000 organs donated from about 53,000 deceased donors, according to official data. 

The number of registered organ donors in China has been rising over the years, and recently reached 6.79 million. 

Li finished fifth in the 800 meter race at the event and said he was grateful for the chance to compete. 

“My job as a rural healthcare worker has pushed me to trek and run frequently through the hills, and I also like playing basketball and volleyball during leisure time, so I am confident in my strength,” he said. 

“I would not be here today without the transplant, and to honor my second chance at life, I ran as well as I could.” 

For Dabao, a 35-year-old man who underwent a kidney trans-plant eight years ago, taking part in the games made him “feel more alive than ever”.

“It was my third time competing in badminton during the national transplant games,” said Dabao, who used a pseudonym to protect his privacy. He lost early in the tournament, but said the games were not only about competition, but also about camaraderie.

“Each time, I get to meet people with similar experiences, and we’ve built friendships over the years,” he said. “I think being here carries significance for me because it means that I am still healthy and energetic after the transplant.” 

Chen Zhishui, head of Tongji Hospital’s research institute on organ transplantation, said that transplant recipients are encour-aged to engage in social activities, return to their workplaces and lead normal lives after recovering from surgery. 

Chen said a shortage of donat-ed organs remains a serious chal-lenge in China. The nation registered only 4.6 donors per 1 million people last year, lagging behind the rate in developed countries. 

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