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Teesside academic prepares to set off for international sporting event

16 June 2017


A Teesside University academic is preparing to compete in a major international sporting event as a result of donating a kidney to a complete stranger.

When Dr Gill Owens altruistically donated a kidney in March 2015, little did she think it would lead to her being invited to take part in the World Transplant Games.

She is now about to compete in the 100m sprint representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the sporting event taking place in Malaga on Friday 30 June, as it is the first time donors have been invited to compete.

The Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Management in the University’s School of Social Sciences, Business & Law, said: 'I am really looking forward to representing my country.'

Gill, who is an ambassador and trustee of the Give a Kidney Foundation, added: 'I used to do the sprint event as a schoolgirl, but there has been a lot of advancement in sports science since I was at school so I really value the help I’ve had from the University.'

Support through exercise and dietary advice has being offered to Gill by a team of experts including physiotherapist Paul Chesterton, who leads the BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation programme, Elite Sports officer Matthew Wright, Mike Campbell, BSc (Hons) Applied Science & Exercise student and fitness instructor in the University gym, and Stuart Brown, strength and conditioning coach.

'I have really appreciated their involvement, it is a real team effort and I am so lucky to have had the support of the guys working with me, their expertise has been invaluable,' said Gill.

I am so lucky to have had the support of the guys working with me, their expertise has been invaluable

Dr Gill Owens

Gill, who is about to join the 250-strong GB team in Spain, said: 'Taking part is a chance to promote the cause of both organ donation and transplant sport to help demonstrate that you can enjoy a perfectly fit, healthy and active life after either donating or receiving a kidney.'

Professor Paul Croney, Teesside University Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, said: 'Gill is a great ambassador for the University, having been selected to compete on the world stage in this international sporting event as a result of altruistically donating a kidney to a stranger.

'We are proud to see her represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 100m sprint at the World Transplant Games. Gill is a credit to the team of University experts who have worked closely with her to devise a training plan ahead of her trip to Malaga. I am sure she will be a great success for them, the University and Team GB.'

There are currently over 6,500 people on the UK national transplant waiting list, with an average wait time of two and a half years for a donor.

Awareness of this situation led to development of a legal framework for altruistic donation in the UK. Altruistic kidney donation involves an individual offering their kidney as a living donor to an unknown person in order to enable to recipient to live a longer and healthier life.