Monday, May 20, 2024


A YOUNG Castlewellan girl has returned home victorious, with a haul of medals, after competing in the British Transplant Games. Evie Keown, for the second year running, competed in a range of age-appropriate competitions at the event, staged in Coventry, and this time built on her 2022 successes, securing an amazing three gold medals.

Born with only half a working heart, Evie’s determination and fighting spirit is truly astonishing. The soon-to-be five-year-old has overcome, and achieved, so much in such a short space of time. Given the gift of life through organ donation in November 2019, Evie is able to make her parents Gareth and Kelly-Anne, big sisters Muireann (11) and six-year-old Meave, the wider family and all her friends proud each and every day. Evie competed, along with other members of the Freeman Children’s Hospital team, where she underwent her life-saving care before and after her transplant, in the 25-metre track, obstacle and beanbag archery competitions.

Kelly-Anne explained the annual transplant games aim to demonstrate the benefits of transplantation, encouraging transplant patients to regain fitness, whilst increasing public awareness of organ donation, and how people should discuss their wishes with their loved ones. Evie, who is enjoying her summer holidays before returning to St Malachy’s Primary School in her hometown, proudly keeps her medals next to her bed and has been delighted to be able to show them off during medical appointments in recent days.

Gareth and Kelly-Anne are naturally thrilled about their daughter’s success at the games, which attracted hundreds of competitors aged from one through to those in their 80s. Kelly-Anne explained the games also focus on the wider family, with events for siblings and parents. “We could not believe we came home with three golds,” she said. “It’s just a great family-focussed event, and the opening ceremony would remind you of the Olympics, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when donor families entered the arena,” she said.

Fully aware that if a family had not said ‘yes’ and agreed to their loved one’s organs being donated, then things could have taken a very different direction for the Keowns, Kelly-Anne said the annual event “is such an amazing experience”, one that is sensitive yet celebratory. Whilst Evie continues to deal with numerous medical appointments, and will be on medication for life, Kelly-Anne said Evie, just like her siblings, “is remarkable.” “Evie has her daily battles, but she is absolutely amazing. She is really social and loves to be taking part in things so to do the games again was just perfect and we are very proud of her. “She just loves life. She is our little fighter, and we are so grateful to have her here.” Having spent lengthy periods of time in hospital in recent years, Kelly-Anne and Gareth have tragically seen the heart-breaking side of those waiting and hoping for the gift of life and firmly believe that organ donation should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

They continue to urge everyone to share their wishes and talk openly to your family and loved ones about organ donation – after all, Evie is living proof that it is the gift of life.

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