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Team Transplant

Members of UW Medical Center’s Team Transplant begin an early morning walk at Seattle’s Gasworks Park. The group started in 2001 with a handful of patients and staffers; today the team is 200 members strong. Photo by Karen Orders

Inner Strength Training
Organ-transplant recipients, friends and families embrace life by training for half marathons

It’s a classically chilly autumn morning at Seattle’s Gasworks Park. A few dozen runners, and a couple of dogs, have taken over a grassy area next to the parking lot, and are using it for stretching and socializing.

They will soon start their Saturday morning workout, setting off down the path along the shores of Lake Union. Some will run, others will walk, and for many it will be a mix of both. Everyone is dressed for rain though the menacing dark clouds, which once loomed above, are now harmlessly skirting past.

The chatter dies down as their cheery coach Alysun Deckert starts going through announcements. As her team gathers around her, Deckert is awash in varying shades of green. There are lime green hats, wasabi green jackets, forest green shirts and even Gatorade-inspired doggie apparel.

In fact, green is the only obvious group unifier. The group represents a diverse range of ages, races and sizes. Green, long associated with renewal and life, perfectly represents the University of Washington Medical Center’s (UWMC) Team Transplant.

Team Transplant is made up of dozens of UWMC transplant recipients, their spouses, parents, children and friends. Over time many UWMC employees have also joined the team, and fall easily into the friend category. Together as a team, they train for and participate in a variety of events including the Seattle Marathon, the Rock & Roll Marathon and the UWAA Dawg Dash. They represent the importance of organ donation, and what it means to truly be alive.

The story of Team Transplant begins back in 2001. In her role as a UWMC inpatient clinical dietician, Deckert enjoyed meeting with her post-transplant patients and educating them about the benefits of proper diet and exercise. But, she wanted to do more.

As a lifelong runner herself, she knew it was one thing to talk about exercise, but quite another to actually get out of a toasty-warm bed early on a Saturday morning, and get out there and sweat. She decided to start an informal walking/running group, and invited her patients to join her. She also started sending out encouraging weekly e-mails, providing training tips and event information.

Deckert has been running competitively since high school, and has even competed in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. She says Team Transplant perfectly complements her work at UWMC, and helps her get to know her patients as real people. 

“While being a transplant recipient is a significant part of who they are, they’re also professionals, wives, fathers, soccer coaches, travelers, researchers,” Deckert says. “It’s so amazing to be able to witness the process as they re-enter the world again.”

Tami Sadusky, executive director of the UW Office of Grants and Accounting, is an early member of Team Transplant, and has seen it grow from a small group of patients and UWMC employees into a supportive, inclusive group of nearly 200. She received a double organ transplant (kidney and pancreas) in May 1993 then received another kidney in May 2011.

“Organ donation is a very emotional thing,” Sadusky says. “Many of us on the team are there only because of the extreme generosity and thoughtfulness of others who we have never met. After being given the gift of life I will do whatever I can to make sure the organs I received are taken care of.”

Chuck Bauman is alert and ready for his Saturday morning Lake Union workout. He enjoys training with his fellow teammates so much he drives into Seattle from the Kitsap Peninsula. For Bauman, Team Transplant is a family affair.

His son Chas is a proud member of Team Transplant, and sports bright green shoelaces wherever he goes. A senior running back/defensive lineman for South Kitsap High School, he proudly uses bright green laces in his cleats for games. Whether on or off the field, he loves telling people they are to honor his parents.

Shannon Bauman, ’92, shares in the recognition because she was the one who, one week before their 25th wedding anniversary, provided the kidney that would ultimately save her husband’s life. Bauman says he is making it up to her by staying in shape, and Team Transplant helps him do just that.

“Last year my son and I did the Seattle Marathon and completed the 13.1 miles in 3½ hours,” Bauman says. “Team Transplant has been a big encouragement.”

Also among the group of early morning runners is UWMC’s CEO Stephen Zieniewicz, who says he loves running with Team Transplant.

Zieniewicz appreciates and respects the efforts of Deckert and other UWMC staff members who consistently volunteer their time and energy to Team Transplant.

“This is a critical service we provide, one that really distinguishes us from other hospitals in the region,” he says. “Exercise is such an important part of recovery. This program is unique and brings staff, patients and family members together in a powerful way.”

Ina Zajac is a Columns contributing editor

2 Responses to Inner Strength Training

  1. Vicky says:

    How do we get involved and join?

  2. Sally Oliver says:

    My husband received his kidney almost 2 yrs ago. His recovery has been a slow process, still filled with frequent hospitalization. Tonight he came to me and said, “I want to train for a half marathon, can you help me find some resources to help me achieve my goal?” A quick search lead to you! Your article is very inspiring. Any advice you may offer would be appreciated. We live in central Florida, one main concern for me is the heat and sun.

    Thank-you, and congratulations on providing an extraordinary example of being proactive.

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