Latest Release: Killing Salazar with Steven Seagal

Latest Release: Killing Salazar with Steven Seagal

An elite team of DEA agents are assigned to protect a dangerous drug lord and take refuge in a luxury hotel while they await extraction. They soon find themselves at the center of an ambush as the drug lord’s former associates launch an explosive assault on the hotel.

 

 

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Transplantees have gathered in Durban to compete against each other and raise donor awareness.

Transplantees have gathered in Durban to compete against each other and raise donor awareness.

Organ transplants: Athletes’ true race is against time

FATIMA ASMAL

Matthew Legemaate is waiting for a heart and double lung transplant. (World Transplant Games)

David Broit, manager of the Australian World Transplant Games squad, says organ trans­plantees “smile a lot”. In spite of the dark skies and inter­mittent drizzle, there were smiles and hugs all around as Broit, his team of 67 (ranging in age from 14 to 83) and hundreds of other athletes from around the world converge on Durban’s beachfront amphitheatre last Sunday for a walk that announced the start of the 19th edition of the games, taking place in the city from July 28 to August 4.

This is the biggest organ donor awareness event in the world with nearly 2000 athletes, all of whom had to participate in qualifying events in their countries and all of whom are transplant recipients of either solid organs or bone marrow.

It aims to give hope to those awaiting transplants and to encourage people to become donors. According to the World Transplant Games Federation president, Olivier Cous­tere, countries that have hosted the event have experienced increases in organ donation rates of 30% or more. Another central objective of the event is to show the difference an organ transplant can make to the life of an individual.

This difference is evident in Canadian Howard Dell, a former winter Olympian, professional footballer and basketball player as well as a TV actor who was diagnosed with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis and Wilson’s disease, which is caused by too much copper in the liver, in 2006.

Dell, clad in a giant blue jersey and tights looks no different from any other American footballer. But he produces a picture on his phone of himself lying in a hospital bed, weighing only 67kg.

“This was just after my transplant,” he says. “When I was diagnosed, the doctors gave me three to six months to live. But I hung on to my liver for as long as I could – almost three years – because it took me a year and a half to get on to the waiting list before, finally, with days left to live, they informed me that a liver had become available and I had the transplant on November 17 2009.”

Since then, he hasn’t looked back. Seven months later he participated in the United States Transplant Games. He is in South Africa to compete in the 100m, 200m, javelin, discus and ball throw events. At last year’s US Transplant Games, Dell – who is 1.88m tall – won five gold medals, and he is not taking his trip to Durban lightly.

“I ain’t messing around. In the US, in some events, I have some fun and don’t take them seriously, but when you come to World you want to see competition. You want to show what Olympic level and what professional football competitiveness is.”

But for 16-year-old Hunter Messer, a liver transplantee from St Antonio, Texas, the games are more an opportunity to meet others like him than a serious competition. It cost the Messer family, made up of his two siblings and his father, $15 000 to travel to South Africa.

“It’s worth it,” his father says. “He’s really into meeting a lot of friends from other countries – that’s what this is about.”

Messer, who also suffers from kidney failure and is blind in his right eye, takes nine pills a day. But he is all smiles and high fives as he interacts with little children playing along the beachfront.  “I participate in the long jump, in the 100m sprint and the bowling, and I do it for the fun of it. I don’t train much but I always medal,” he says.

At the Westville Country Club where the squash event is taking place, the atmos­phere in the South Afri­can squad is more one of camaraderie than rivalry.

Alice Voigt, a 28-year-old double lung transplantee from Jo’burg, has just learnt that the only other person in her age division is fellow South African Catherine de Beer, a kidney transplantee.

But, although Voigt admits that she is nervous, she and De Beer are happily chatting and agreeing on a time at which to start their game. Kobus Weideman – also a kidney transplantee, who has won silver and bronze medals in previous editions of the games – confesses to being “very competitive”, though he admits he doesn’t think he would be able to play world league squash.

“That would be too straining on the body. There are a couple of people in the games who used to be world champs and Olympians before they had their transplants – they had to give that up.”

Coustere says the athletes’ training includes regular medical check-ups.

“They are on medication for control of organ rejection, to prevent the adverse effects of immunosuppression and to treat pre-existing or new co-morbidities like diabetes mellitus. Some of the medications are organo-toxic or may become so. Stresses of competition may cause the athletes to become dehydrated or hypertensive, so these athletes are faced with much more than just training for their sport.

“The World Transplant Games are a celebration of the human spirit. The determination of our transplanted athletes ensures that they never give up hope. They are grateful for every moment that they can do their sport and for them to just take part means that they are winners,” he says.

One person who hopes to compete in the games in the future is one of only six South African heart and double lung transplantees. Tina Beckbessinger was born with congenital heart disease. Now 32, she had the transplant two years ago – by which time she was bedridden, sleeping 18 to 24 hours a day and on oxygen most of the time. Now she cuts a cheerful figure walking around with her fiancé and cuddling a little dog in her arms.

At the Save Seven Lives walk she has strong words of encouragement for Matthew Legemaate (15) who is on the transplant list for a double lung and heart: “Don’t give up! Keep hoping and it will happen soon.”

Leggemaate has had five open-heart and many other related surgeries. But he is at the beachfront, mingling with transplantees.

“The physical tiredness he constantly feels affects him not only physically but also mentally, so every­thing is hard work for Matthew,” says his mother. “Despite all this, he will continue to push on and, in the case of the WTG, he was determined to be involved somehow, even if it was just to go to the walk.

“He was really encouraged by just how well the participants looked and generally the appearance of norma-lity of their lives.”

 

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Howard Dell Competes in Transplant Games

Howard Dell Competes in Transplant Games

Former Olympian and professional football player Howard Dell tries to stay cool in the hot sun while talking to spectators at the Transplant Games of America at Grand Valley State University Monday.

ALLENDALE, MI — As Howard Dell took to the track Monday, ready to compete in the, his mind turned to thoughts of what might have been.

Stepping onto the new bright blue track surface brought fond thoughts of Grand Valley State.

Yet he remembers it as a college, not a university.

“Strangely enough, when I was high school, this was Grand Valley State College and they recruited me for basketball,” Dell said. “I still have my recruiting letter from 1981.”

Things have changed in 30 years.

Grand Valley grew into a university in 1987 and Dell’s life has been filled with Olympic competition, professional football, athletics training and even acting.

It was more than he ever planned for.

What he hadn’t planned for was being diagnosed with the rare liver disease PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis). Then, upon further testing, he was diagnosed with Wilson’s disease, which is caused by too much copper in the liver.

All of a sudden, time was something Dell didn’t have much of.

The attention he was used to getting from athletics and film turned to medical diagnosis and treatments.

“I had the same disease as (former Chicago Bears running back) Walter Payton,” Dell said. “And I’m the only person to ever have PSC and Wilson’s disease.”

Albeit odd that having more things wrong with him may have helped save his life, his double diagnosis got him fast-tracked for a transplant, but barely in time, he said.

Now, just two and a half years out from his successful transplant, Dell is still weighing all his choices on how to continue with his life.

“I’m still deciding what I want to do,” Dell said. “I’ll always want to train the athletes but I’m not sure if I’ll go back and do the whole film and television thing yet.”

In the interim, competing in transplant games has worked well for Dell.

Fresh off winning four golds in the Canadian Transplant Games last weekend in Calgary, Dell is working through a long list of events in these games, his fifth since his transplant.

As if competing in the 100 and 200 meter races, discuss, and the softball throw weren’t challenging enough, Dell is struggling with other things this week — his emotions.

“It feels somewhat unfair, I almost feel bad,” Dell says, referencing his experiences as a professional athlete, now competing against other recipients and donors as well.

Competing in doubles bowling Sunday was a great equalizer, though, Dell said.

“I have trouble getting two pins, let alone all of them,” he said.

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First he was broken down. And now he’s just plain broke.

First he was broken down. And now he’s just plain broke.

Howie gets his life back

By Paul Svoboda, The Intelligencer

First he was broken down. And now he’s just plain broke.

But Belleville native Howard Dell is happy to be alive and happy to start all over again.

Dell, 48, was hit with a rare liver disease three years ago, underwent a transplant in November and after leaving the hospital in Los Angeles at a frail 148 pounds, the six-foot-two athlete and actor (Detective Troy Hawkins on ‘Young and Restless; Agent Dobrinsky on ‘Once A Thief’ series, among others) is now a robust 210.

“The last three years I’ve been staying alive and now I’m starting at zero,” said Dell during a recent telephone interview from his home in Victoria, B.C. “But you know what? I’ve got a new liver.”

Three years ago, when he was flattened by a rare liver disease known as Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) — the same ailment that killed former NFL superstar Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears — Dell sold all of his earthly possessions and hit the road in search of any kind of treatment that could keep him alive until he could get a transplant.

“I was pretty freaked out,” said Dell, a graduate of Bayside Secondary School who played football at McMaster University in Hamilton and had stints in the NFL and CFL. “The diagnosis is a couple of months. Walter Payton couldn’t get a transplant so if he couldn’t, how could I?

“So, I sold everything I had and literally went everywhere in the world to try to stay alive and I managed to stay alive for two years.”

Dell went to China and other parts of Asia, Europe and New Zealand seeking treatments and visiting clinics.

“Hey, if they were doing voodoo and it helped, I was showing up,” he said.

Eventually, with death staring him in the face, Dell returned to L.A. where he received a transplant.

“You don’t know who you get the transplant from but you’re allowed to write a letter that an agency gives to the donor family and they either write you back or they don’t,” said Dell. “I wrote my letter but haven’t heard anything back.”

Today, Dell’s training regimen is simple and so is his diet.

“I don’t get psychotic in the weight room anymore, just lots of standard stuff like we used to do in high school,” he said.

As for diet, Dell concerns himself more with what he shouldn’t eat.

“Stuff like sodas, which are death in a bottle, and no fast foods,” he said. “Hey, it’s not easy. I love Coke and Pepsi and I like a good burger just like the next guy. But I try to eat fresh food and I don’t eat as much beef as I used to because it makes you gain weight and then you’re looking at heart disease.

“If it comes from the ground, it’s good. If it comes from the farm, it’s good. It hasn’t been sitting on a shelf in a supermarket.”

To make ends meet on his road to recovery, Dell is writing a book about diet — Eating Left Because Right Didn’t Work — which debunks many of the myths about eating correctly that he says we were taught growing up.

“Remember when they said margarine was supposed to be OK?” he said. “The pun in the title of the book is that we’re going to eat left because what we were told about eating right, was wrong.”

Dell is also filming a documentary about his disease, transplant and recovery.

Though his strength and conditioning improves on a daily basis, Dell knows he’s nowhere near the former shape he was in while training and competing for the Canadian Bobsled Team. But he’s getting there.

“I’m not there yet,” he said. “After something like this, you have to redefine normal. I started off getting out of the hospital and taking 27 different medications a day. Now, I’m down to six.”

Dell’s progress has been encouraging enough to allow him to enter the U.S. Transplant Games July 30-Aug. 4 in Madison, Wisconsin.

“It’s like the Olympics for transplant patients,” he said. “There’ll be about 2,500 athletes there. I’ll let the ego compete. Oh yeah, the ego will be out there.”

Dell will compete in the 100m, 200m, shot put and discus events plus the softball throw. After that, he has targeted the Canadian Transplant Games Aug. 9-14 in Quebec City and the 2011 World Transplant Games next summer in Sweden.

He said his athletic background helped him get through some tough times prior to his liver transplant.

“Yeah, attitude helped, but I was in denial,” he said. “I looked great. I was in great shape — on the outside. But inside, I was dying. Only one in three million people get this disease and you think, ‘why me?’

“But you just don’t quit. You know it’s going to be painful, but you keep telling yourself you’ll get a second chance.

“Now, I feel great. I feel like Benjamin Button.”

Today, Dell said he looks at life differently.

“I think now with more urgency,” he said. “I’d like to say, ‘sure, the prognosis is good,’ but the reality is, how many people do you know who can say they had an organ transplant 20 years ago?

“I don’t know how much time I have. I just know what I can do with that time.”

For Dell, that includes becoming a spokesman for organ donation.

“Sign those donor cards,” he said. “You can help save a life.”

 

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