WITH three kidney transplants and a cancer battle behind her, Vicky Horan felt enormous relief when she arrived in Spain for the 2017 World Transplant Games.

The Bishop Auckland secretary had been picked to play volleyball for Great Britain and North Ireland in the 2015 games in Argentina but was forced to pull out when she was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer.

After extensive chemotherapy treatment Mrs Horan went into remission last February, returned to the sport and won a place in the national side which competed in Malaga last month.

Loading article content

“I felt real relief to have actually got there this time, absolute relief to touch down in Malaga and complete phase one,” she said.

That feeling turned to pride when the 41-year-old was chosen to lead out GB and NI’s 175 athletes as flag bearer for the opening ceremony at the Malagueta bullring, which more than 4,000 people attended.

She said: “I was so proud, we were the biggest nation there and to lead them out felt pretty good.

“You don’t know every single member of that team but you love them anyway, it is a family.”

Mrs Horan was disappointed her Lions team only won one of its three games, losing against silver and bronze medallists Argentina and Finland, but will train hard before the 2019 World Transplant Games on home turf at Newcastle/Gateshead.

She also finished fifth in her age group in shot-put, which she may take up along with sprinting, and enjoyed ten-pin bowling.

Husband Phil said: “I was very proud at the opening ceremony and every game, she was disappointed not to win a medal but to me getting there achieved so much.”

Mrs Horan is passionate about the transplant games as a sportswoman and a survivor, having had three transplants since being diagnosed with kidney failure aged 13.

She said: “There is a picture of the Lions with numbers on our shirts, which are the years since transplant. That there means life, years we might not have had.

“I think it is about honouring and remembering the gift of life- that awful moment when a family lost someone but made that decision to give life to someone else.

“It shows what we can achieve thanks to organ donation and I hope opens up more conversations about it.”

For information or to register on NHS Organ Donor Register call 0300-1232323 or visit organdonation.nhs.uk