A different sort of gold standard for Walter family

Published 3:16 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2010

COMMENTARYNo matter who you are, gold medals rock.

Elizabeth Walter, a freshman at Landrum High School, knows all about that as a member of Landrums state-champion cross-country team, and most recently as a competitor at the National Transplant Games in Wisconsin. There, she won three of them and potentially qualified for the World Transplant Games in Sweden.

But the fact is, Walter nearly died to get those medals around 10 years ago when she was 4 years old and her liver inexplicably started to shut down.

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I remember some of it, she said, recalling a hurried trip to Greenville Memorial Hospital and an airlift to the Medical University of South Carolina for a liver transplant, the donor, her father, Todd, by her side.

Imagine it: Dr. Todd Walter with the trained and skilled hands of a physician able to do nothing with them to help his daughter other than ball them into fists or fold them into prayer.

But the doctor and father became a donor. If you look closely, you can see their fading but matching scars, evidence of a normally unseen bond between a father and a daughter made tangible always there, always a reminder.

And thats what the Transplant Games turned out to be for the Walters, both of whom competed. The games served as a reminder for the thousands who attended and 1,200 or so who competed that life can go on with vigor after organ transplants.

Its sort of a celebration of life, and of seeing life after transplants, said Dr. Walter, who can recite the numbers more easily than most because of professional and harrowing personal experience.

There are 104,000 people on waiting lists to have transplants in the U.S., he said. Nineteen people die every day waiting. Every day, people are needing the gift of life.

And thats more precious than gold just ask Elizabeth, the girl who has both.