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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Cumberland Building Society boss wins gold at transplant games

A father whose life was saved thanks to a new liver has gone to extreme lengths to pay tribute to his donor by winning a gold medal at the British Transplant Games.

John Leveson photo
John Leveson

John Leveson, 52, from Langwathby, near Penrith, would have died had he not received a transplant. But thankfully a liver did become available and he had the operation in December 2009.

Since then the father-of-three has found a new lease of life, making the most of his rekindled fitness by taking up cycling – and discovering a genuine talent for it.

John, who is deputy chief executive at the Cumberland Building Society, was chosen to represent Great Britain at the European Transplant Games in Zagreb.

Although he didn’t win a medal there, he returned to compete in the British games in Kent last week – where he claimed his first gold.

He told the News & Star: “It has been a brilliant experience. To be at the European championships in the red, white and blue – I’m 52 years old but was like a little kid.

“I never ever thought I’d represent my country at anything in my life. I didn’t win a medal but I really enjoyed it and I now know what I need to do to improve for future events.”

On arriving back in the UK, he met up with his family and headed to Kent for the British Transplant Games, competing in both the cycling time trial and the road race.

He came away not just with a medal, but a gold one.

“I didn’t win the road race, I got my tactics wrong, but I did get gold in the time trial. It felt amazing,” he said.

John has dedicated his win to his donor – a woman in her 60s from the London area who died of natural causes. “I had about six months to live when I got my transplant. Without my donor I would now be dead,” he said.

“We are the most exclusive sports club that nobody wants to join so this is a real tribute to my donor. I am making the most of what they gave me.”

John now faces a nervous wait to find out if he has been selected to compete in the World Transplant Games, held in South Africa next year.

“That really is the Olympics of the transplant world. I’d love to go, but it’s in the hands of the selectors now.”

In the meantime he is about to embark on another huge physical challenge as part of his training – cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

“I wanted to see if I could do it. It will be 109 miles a day for nine days. If I do it will be a great achievement and I’ll be in a really good position to compete in future events.”

John is urging people to sign up to the organ donor register and give others like him the chance to live – and achieve great things.

The News & Star’s sister paper, The Cumberland News, is currently running its Promise Life campaign, aimed at encouraging people to sign up to the organ donor register.

For more information or to sign up, visit www.cumberland-news.co.uk/news/promise-life

Alternatively, call 0300 1232323 or text SAVE to 84118.


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