Jennie Parker says she was a runner before having her children, but she’d got out of the habit due to “life’s busyness”.
It was when she gave the ultimate gift of life to her twin sister Sue in the UK that she thought of running again.
“It was going to be a way for me to meet up with my sister through the World Transplant Games.”
Rollback the years to when the identical sisters were born and while Jennie was the picture of health, Sue was born with a congenital kidney defect. Jennie immigrated to New Zealand in 1999, married James and had two sons, Max, 9 and Charlie, 11.
She said she always knew the time would come that she would have to return to the UK to help her sister. “In 2017 that time came, so we all went to the UK for a year with that in mind. We went to Tonbridge in Kent and James started running at that parkrun.” Jenny said.
“He’s quite a serious runner but I’m a plodder. I didn’t join him at parkrun at that time.”
Before she could donate one of her kidneys Jennie went through a multitude of tests and that was where her interest in running was piqued. “The whole process was horrible. The testing, there were ups and downs and that took most of the year. I kept saying I was motivated by love. I met people who were altruistic donors and that to me is incredible.”
“I knew where my kidney was going and the difference it would make. I spent a lot of time at Guy’s Hospital in London. I spotted a poster for the World Transplant Games. It’s like the Olympics for people who have either had a transplant or have donated organ tissue, plus relatives of deceased donors.” Jenny said.
“I read up on it and saw that you had to join your local organisation. So when I got back to New Zealand in 2018 I signed up for the New Zealand team.
“There aren’t as many choices of events for donors as for the recipients, so I chose to enter the 5km. I registered for parkrun and ran my first one at the end of 2019. I started getting into it then Covid came along and the games were cancelled.”
Living in New Zealand, on the other side of the world from her sister, the games had presented themselves as a way to meet up and celebrate the life-changing experience they both went through.
Jennie is back parkrunning to keep fit for the Australian Transplant Games in Tasmania in April 2022. In 2023 Perth hosts the World Transplant Games.
Her home parkrun is Owairaka in New Zealand. “I found it really motivating, being with a whole group of people. They’re really encouraging.
“You’re up early, you’ve done your run and you feel so much better for it. Then you have the café afterwards. parkrun is ideal for the event I’m training for. You can go at your own pace and meet people.”
Meanwhile Sue, Jennie says, has had her life changed. “Her health is amazing now. She’s a new person. She used to be tired, cold and no energy. Her kidney function is now better than mine – she got my best kidney.”
“For anyone thinking about being a donor, definitely find out everything you can about it. The process is quite stressful and it took a long time but I was thinking of the outcome for the person I was helping. You would do anything for the one you love.”
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