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Austin athletes head to Transplant Games

Pam LeBlanc

Editor’s note: This article was originally published July 2, 2014

When Lemuel Bradshaw dives off the starting blocks in a 500-meter swim race next week, he’ll be showing everyone who watches that life doesn’t have to slow down for people who have had organ transplants.

Bradshaw, who had a heart transplant nearly 15 years ago, will compete in swimming and badminton at the Transplant Games July 11-15 in Houston. Transplant recipients, living donors and donor families compete at the Games as a way to encourage others to register as organ donors. The Games are held every two years in different cities around the country.

“This is what you give people a chance to do when you sign up as a donor,” Bradshaw says.

I first met Bradshaw six years ago, when he was clanging weights at Hyde Park Gym. He’s always been fit - he played basketball and football, then turned to shot put and discus when he was growing up in Louisiana. He developed congestive heart failure after getting an infection in his 30s; ultimately he needed - and received - a heart transplant.

The average life expectancy for someone after a heart recipient is five to seven years. It’s been nearly 15 for Bradshaw, who is now 44.

“Life is not guaranteed for anyone, but especially for transplant recipients,” he says. “What (competing in the Transplant Games) means for me is I’ve been able to maintain, with the help of whatever you believe in, a level of physical fitness that I’m grateful for.”

Even better, the family of the man who donated his heart to Bradshaw lives in Houston and may attend the Games to see Bradshaw race.

“It means a lot to let them see me healthy strong and active,” he says. “It’s one thing to tell them you’re doing great, another to show them.”

Bradshaw isn’t the only Austin person competing at the Games. Living kidney donor Lessa Ennis will compete in donor/recipient bowling, table tennis and singles bowling.

To register as an organ donor, go to