Pinjarra transplant athlete brings home the gold

“It’s something I never expected, I was supposed to be dead two and a half years ago so now I am new liver, new life and a national title,” said Pinjarra man John Coman holding his two gold and one silver medals.

Mr Coman recently came back to Pinjarra after competing in the Australian Transplant Games in Sydney, and took home a bunch of medals with him.

The 61-year-old pastor won two golds in swimming, one in 50m freestyle and one in 50m breaststroke, and took home the title of Australia’s fastest swimmer in his category.

He also won a silver in 10 pin bowling and a silver with the Dragon Boat racing team, which he was the captain of.

However, Mr Coman wasn’t always a strong healthy sportsman. 

He was taking part in an education project in the Philippines helping illiterate teenagers living in extreme poverty with his wife Maria in 2014 when his health shut down unexpectedly and he had to be rushed back to Australia to be hospitalised.

His liver was failing, and unless he received a new transplanted liver he had three months of life left.

He received the call that changed his life forever four weeks after receiving the bad news, he got transplanted a new liver and got a second chance in life.

Ever since that life-changing experience, Mr Coman has committed his life to raising awareness about organ donation and giving back to the community.

“I want to invest my life not just spend it,” he said.

“The family that gave me this liver, they lost a family member and they decided in their grief to say yes to organ donation and I’m alive because of that.

“I think everyone that has had a transplant should be an advocate, because we have life because somebody else was generous.”

Mr Coman said the Transplant Games were an opportunity to celebrate life and meet other people that have been through the same struggle.

"I was just going to celebrate the fact that I am alive and to meet other people who have walked the same path and I’ve come back with medals,” he said.

“He medals are the bonus, the main thing is to celebrate life.”

He said the best thing about the games was to see other people giving their best despite the odds, and encouraged him to go one step further as a transplant advocate.

“It’s really encouraged me to get involved with getting the word out there about organ donation,” he said.

He said he has already started training for future events and will be taking part in Transplant Australia’s campaigns and events as an advocate very soon.

“Doing advocacy, going to sausage sizzles, handing out leaflets, and doing stuff in shopping centres and telling my story so people go ‘wow, I should do that’,” he said.

The World Transplant Games will be held next year in Malaga, Spain, however, Mr Coman said he will take a break to celebrate his 40th anniversary with his wife traveling and celebrating life further.

The Australian Transplant Games are held every two years to celebrate the success of transplantation and to encourage Australian families to join the national tissue organs donor list.

It gathers athletes from across Australia, as well as some international teams from the UK, the United States and New Zealand, who compete in different sport disciplines.

Participants include transplant recipients, donor families, living donors, people on dialysis and people awaiting a transplant.

To become an organ donor go to donatelife.gov.au

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