INJURY news is a bit different when it comes to the World Transplant Games. None of your tight hamstrings or slight knee twinges here.

“One of the team, Sam, who was meant to be competing, is back on the waiting list for a new set of lungs,” revealed Linda Owen, curler and heart transplant beneficiary.

“He’s had a series of rejections and infections this year so he’s been listed again. Two years ago he was skiing down the mountains in Switzerland. This time he’s at home waiting for a donor. So we’re all keeping our fingers crossed for him.”

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The 11th edition of the Games begins today in Canada and Owen is one of six Scots heading over to compete as part of a 21-strong Team GB. Overall, more than 100 competitors – who have either had life-saving transplants or are living donors – from 17 countries will take part.

It is a sporting event like any other, with Owen looking to retain the gold medal she won two years ago. But it is a celebration of life above anything else. Nearly all of those taking part wouldn’t be here if not for the altruism of a donor willing to see life prevail once theirs had come to an end.

Raising awareness of the importance of registering for organ donation is a vital part of the week-long Games.

“In previous years the host country has tended to see a rise of 30 to 50% in people signing up to register during the build-up to the Games and during the event itself,” added Owen. “So as well as the sporting competition it’s about promoting that issue as well.

“The law in Scotland is changing to become an opt-out system. So everyone will be on the register unless they specify otherwise. At the moment three people die in the UK every day waiting for a transplant so it’s a really significant change.”

Owen’s own life-changing moment came five years ago, not long after she had given birth to twins. Doctors discovered she had peripartum cardiomyopathy and would require a new heart.

“I was at the stage where I had end-stage organ failure,” she revealed. “I wasn’t allowed to go home and they had to put in a pump as my heart had become enlarged and was no longer pumping the blood properly.

“I was bed-bound from the moment I got there. And the only way I would get out of bed was by having a transplant. I was lucky that I only had to wait 12 days. Some people are still waiting a year later.”

An enthusiastic club curler from a young age, word reached Owen, from near Lockerbie, about the World Transplant Games while she was still awaiting her operation.

“I remember lying in the hospital bed and thinking, 'once I get through all this, we are going there!' I started curling when I was 12. My granddad was a curler and he thought my friend and I would enjoy it. And he was right.

“It’s quite a community sport. The club I belong to goes from teenagers to people in their 80s and folk in wheelchairs all curling together. It’s quite a sociable, fun game.

“One of the recommendations post-transplant is to try keep as fit and active as you can. And there is evidence that suggests that can also help prolong your transplant.”

The procedure has allowed Linda to continue a normal life apart from one quirk. “With a new heart, the nerves there are no longer connected to my brain. So when I first start moving, my body reacts but my brain doesn’t realise my heart has to pump quicker to respond!

“It’s similar to runners hitting a wall after a really long run. I get that in the first few minutes of exercise. So you just have to do a proper warm-up and take breaks in between. But there’s not been anything I’ve not been able to do since the transplant.”

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She kept her promise to herself by competing in the 2018 Games where she won gold. And now she’s eagerly anticipating this year’s event at the home of curling, where she has also signed up to compete in the 2km snow-shoe race.

“Switzerland was a big deal as it was about just making it happen and getting there,” added the 38 year-old. “And now getting the chance to curl in Canada where they have around one million curlers compared to 20,000 in Scotland is really exciting.

“The slogan of the Games is “Powered by the gift of life” and I think that’s a really appropriate tagline. There are people there who have received new hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys, pancreas and bone marrow all competing against each other.

“It's nice being with people who have been through something similar to yourself and understand what it’s like.”

- To register and for more information go to, or contact the NHS Organ Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23