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Damian Matich | The making of a transplant athlete

Damian Matich is aiming for 4 gold medals at the World Transplant Games this summer. Here he tells us about the occasions that led to his participation in the Games and his wish to inspire organ donation.

On first assembly Damian Matich he offers off no inkling of the trials that he has endured. He is a charming man, full of spirit. He has a commanding presence and it comes as no shock that he is a decided athlete.

We meet in the foyer of Nuffield Health Paddington Fitness & Wellbeing Gym, the place he holds the esteemed title of Athlete in Residence. As we sit down sipping water earlier than filming Damian’s coaching session, he fills me in on the cause why he is now a section of Team GB and the reason he hopes to assist thru his wearing efforts.

Some 20 years in the past Damian was once identified with a mixture of uncommon stipulations and given a 50/50 hazard of seeing out the year. He beat the odds however endured to combat unwell health, especially with repeated liver-related illness. By 2012 Damian’s fitness deteriorated to the extent that he used to be assessed for a liver transplant and straight away put on the transplant list. He acquired his donor liver on two March 2012.

Now at fifty six years old, Damian is becoming a member of a 100-strong team of Team GB athletes to compete at the World Transplant Games in Argentina in August 2015, his state-of-the-art foray in aggressive swimming.

“Before I had my transplant I went for a swim in January, I couldn’t do 10 metres and I thought, ‘What’s occurring to me?’”

“There used to be an accelerated deterioration and I used to be simply honestly making an attempt to hold going. My household had to watch their father and husband simply disintegrating. It’s a hell of a thing.

“At my first Transplant Games, held in Sheffield in August 2013, it had been a yr and 5 months for the reason that my transplant. People say your first Games is pretty an emotional event and I simply thought, ok. But I understand I received up on the beginning blocks and, well, it hit me simply how fortunate I was once to be there. Then the buzzer sounded and I hit the water.

“My son stated it was once like seeing a huge gorilla being thrown in the water in contrast to everybody else diving in beautifully, however I commenced flailing my hands furiously and I gained the race, in pretty a true time too. I’ll in no way neglect that.”

Damian grew up in New Zealand. He was, he says, a 'small and runty boy' however got here from a household the place energy of personality was once very important. “My grandfather used to be from Croatia, on the Adriatic and supported his household from the age of 12. He migrated to New Zealand and constructed a lifestyles there. So there used to be this concept that you have to be strong, decided and overcome adversity that used to be with me from a very younger age.”

Swimming is a activity Damian has loved his complete life. Growing up on the west coast of New Zealand he realized to swim and physique surf in the massive waves of the ocean the place it used to be actually sink or swim. Since then he has challenged himself continually with open water and Channel swims in New Zealand. He used to be the first man to swim the Kaipara Harbour.


Having moved to the UK 17 years ago, Damian’s shift to aggressive swimming is born of a wish to exhibit his thanks to the u . s . that made his healing feasible and spotlight the want for organ donation.

“There is a gross scarcity of donors global and what all and sundry ought to be doing is questioning about opting in," he says. "An unknown individual made a present on their passing and that saved my life. I used to be terminal, with in all likelihood some other two weeks to live. I’ll by no means understand who that character is however they’ve given me some other 20 – 30 years of existence in advance of me, and that is incredible.”

‘My household is my team’

Joining Damian in Argentina will be his wife, son and daughter. From a seashore residence in Mar Del Plata, south of Buenos Aires, Damian’s household will be assisting to file his progress. Damian’s household have been section of his crew during his coaching and will be indispensable to his efforts in the course of the Games.

“My daughter Sofija is very a whole lot my coach. My son Visko will be my digital camera man, and my spouse Debra will be there as nutritionist, cooking up her outstanding food.

“It’s going to be a crew event, they’ll be there and I choose to convey domestic some success for them.”

With some emotion, Damian advises that he feels very fortunate to have had the full assist of his family, having survived the anxious system of organ transplantation, the pressures of which frequently end result in the wreck up of relationships. “As a society we want to begin wondering about the influence of sickness on the families. Without my family’s assist I couldn’t do this. They had been there for me when I was once sick. They had been there for me when I got here right. And it’s been very hard for us however we’re now beginning to see the fruits of that.”

“Even although you have this spectacular present you have to stay inside and take delivery of constraints.”

Now nicely into his coaching for the Games Damian makes use of Nuffield Health services at Paddington, the place he enters London for his work as a finance and science consultant, and in Reading the place he lives with his wife.

“It’s first-rate for me to have the use of more than one services which reflect every other. The 20m swimming pools enable me to focal point on method and additionally cardio work. And having physiotherapists to hand is invaluable. Collette in the Paddington facility has been supporting me thru historic accidents I’ve had from rugby, karate and surfing. I’ve additionally had a 360 Health Assessment which has allowed me to benchmark my health in opposition to the commonplace public and provide me thoughts to enhance diet and intellectual focus.”

Damian’s coaching has been a combination of dash work for the 50m and 100m occasions and distance work for the 200m and 400m events. But as an organ transplant recipient Damian has to be a great deal greater in tune with his body, and he is all too conscious of the penalties if he doesn’t hear to it.

“You have days when you’re just now not well. Even although you have this astonishing present you have to stay inside constraints and you have to take delivery of these constraints. And you can’t simply push yourself. Before my transplant I ought to force myself to intense effort, I knew that my physique should take it. I don’t have that luxurious any more. But if you’re disciplined and if you’re focused, and with the assist of corporations such as Nuffield Health you can achieve. So optimistically that’s what I’ll do.”

Special thanks to the group at the Tri20 Swim Centre for offering the use of their out of doors amenities for filming.

World Transplant Games outcomes replace 1 September 2015

We are delighted to announce that Damian was once especially profitable at the 2015 World Transplant Games, coming away with two gold and two silver medals for Team GB:

Gold: 400m freestyle; 100m freestyle

Silver: 50m freestyle; 200m freestyle


Commenting on his journey Damian said: "The match has been pretty inspirational. Complete strangers joined through a frequent 'Gift' from every other human being giving them a 2nd threat at life.

"The help from Nuffield Health used to be instrumental in my success and I provide my thanks to you all and Elliott and Collette at the Paddington facility." 

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