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McKenna headed to U.S. Transplant Games this summer

Posted on 01 May 2014 by LeslieM

Pages 09-16By Gary Curreri

Deerfield Beach’s Jackson McKenna’s life was nearly over before it started. At 5- months old, he was diagnosed with biliary (tract) ectasia and needed a life-saving liver transplant.

He got his liver on Feb. 17, 2001 and he’s been healthy ever since, and, every two years, he competes in the Transplant Games of America,” said McKenna’s father, Brian. “It is Olympic style events for any person who has received an organ transplant. This summer, it is being held in Texas.”

McKenna, 13, who has competed in the Transplant Games of America since 2002, said it is fun meeting other athletes from around the country. He has also been quite successful. Two years ago, he competed in Michigan and won six gold medals – in biking, relay race, basketball, softball throw, long jump and the 100-meter dash.

It’s pretty amazing to be where I am,” said McKenna, a Deerfield Beach Middle School seventh grader. He has played in the Deerfield Beach Little League since he was 6 and is currently a member of the Indians’ 50/70 team. “I’m not allowed to play contact sports now. I would like to someday compete against (able-bodied) athletes.”

The Transplant Games of America include track and field, swimming, table tennis, cycling, long jump and the softball throw.

McKenna takes medications daily and goes for blood work every three months. He competes against athletes in his own (13-15 year-old) age group this year.

Brian McKenna said they did blood matches and he was a match for his son.

If they did not find a donor where he could receive a transplant, I would have been able to donate a partial liver to him,” Brian said. “We were fortunate enough to find a partial donor.”

Team Florida typically has between 40 and 50 athletes from throughout the state. There is a South Florida chapter.

It’s really cool to meet other people every two years,” said McKenna, who is part of Team Florida and has met others from around the state who also compete. He enjoys going to different places and meeting everybody. So far, he has competed in Michigan, Texas, Wisconsin, Orlando, Minnesota, Kentucky and Pittsburgh in the Transplant Games.

McKenna has also fared well on the baseball diamond as they finished second in the Major Division last year after winning the District 10 title two years ago in the Majors Division.

He’s won a couple of dozen medals and said his last trip to the National Games netted his biggest cache of medals.

Winning a gold medal is better than winning a baseball title,” said McKenna, who was the youngest participant in his first Transplant Games in Orlando in 2002 at 18 months as he competed in the softball throw. “It is really cool and I am very proud of my accomplishments because I can help other people by raising awareness.”

The Transplant Games showcase the success of transplantation and call attention to the life saving importance of organ donation, and honors organ donors and their families.

We are so thankful each and every day for the gift of life that our son was given,” said Jackson’s mother, Jina McKenna. “Our donor and donor family are always in our hearts.”

If anyone is interested in making donations to Team Florida and Jackson for the 2014 Games, they can make a tax-deductible donation to: Tiger Transplant Fund, 934 N. University Dr., #251, Coral Springs, FL, 33071. In the memo section of the check, please write “Games/Jackson McKenna.”

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