Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sardinia competition is James's 28th

James listening to a team pep-talk from Peter Canavan.
James Nolan dons the green jersey in Sardinia this week for his 28th time as a member of Team Ireland in international competition in transplant and dialysis sports events, writes Brian Byrne.

This week in Cagliari in Sardinia, it will be in the 10th European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships, along with 23 other members of the team.

Being able to take part — this time in four Track & Field events and in SIngles Golf — is a constant reminder to him about how lucky he is, he says. Not just being able to compete, but to be alive. Which he likely wouldn’t be if he hadn’t received a donation of a kidney from his sister Catherine more than three decades ago.

“After my first 20 years dealing with kidney problems, including a year on dialysis, that was a life-saver,” he recalled this week before heading for Sardinia.

He was fortunate. The transplant was both a success and long lasting. And, like others on Team Ireland this week, he was determined not to let this ‘second chance at life’ go to waste. As soon as he was deemed well enough, he became a transplant athlete.

“When you have spent your childhood being chronically ill, you end up with an edge and a hunger to make the most of your second chance. I try to do the best I can at everything I turn my hand to, and if I can come home from Cagliari knowing I did the best I could, then any medals are merely a bonus.”

James also committed his ‘second chance’ to promoting awareness of organ donation, and to raising funds to improve the lot of those on treatment for serious kidney ailments.

The Punchestown Kidney Research Fund charity he founded has raised a total of €1.4m over 28 years, and its most recent spend has helped to open a new Renal Unit in Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.

It was also through the PKRF that he met Emma, his wife with whom he has a 5-year-old son Andrew James. Emma is now a key member of the team at Nolans Butchers, the award-winning business James took over from his late father Andy and of which he is the fourth-generation custodian.

While Emma and Andrew James are regulars at the international sports events, in support of James, they aren’t in Sardinia this week as Emma is completing a Masters in Food Retail Business at the Smurfit Business School.

He’ll be thinking of them, though, as he runs in those four track events and swings his golf club hopefully towards more medals.

And he’ll be thinking too of a friend who passed away during this week, Shay Walker of Newbridge, originally from Kilcullen.

“Shay trained me for athletics in 2002, and he will be sadly missed,” he says. That particular memory will likely spur his efforts on just that important bit more.

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