Utahn who received life-saving donation looks forward to Transplant Games in SLC

SALT LAKE CITY -- For the past few years, Fox 13 has been highlighting the gift of organ donation.

This year, the Donate Life Transplant Games will be held in Utah. The event is like the Olympic Games for living donors, donor families and organ recipients.

One participant is Riley Nelson of South Jordan, who underwent a heart transplant at 7-weeks-old. He received a heart from a donor who died of SIDS.

“I’ve been doing Transplant Games ever since I was very young to celebrate my life, and to thank this baby that gave me his heart,” Nelson said.

Nelson showed us the medals he has won participating in the games ever since he could walk.

“Transplant Games are important because it helps give people awareness of donation, and even after a transplant we can do normal sports and normal activities,” he said.

Nelson also understands how fortunate he has been. His younger brother had the same heart problem he did, but a donor heart wasn’t available.

“He passed away after two weeks,” Nelson said. “I celebrate him as well. I wish he was here so he could compete with me as well.”

Nelson’s main sporting events are bowling, track and field, and cycling. His medals are not only a source of pride, but a way to bond with others who've been affected through organ donation.

“It's a lot easier to talk to them and share stories and experiences because they've also been through all the hospitals and the medicine that we have to take, and it's easy to resonate with them and become friendly and open up with each other,” Nelson said.

This year the Transplant Games will open in Salt Lake City on August 2 at Smith's Ballpark. You can learn more about the event here.

To become an organ donor in Utah, you just need to say “yes” on your driver’s license or state ID card. You can also learn more or sign up by clicking here.

It’s also a good idea to let your family know of your decision so your wishes can be carried out.