Final hurdle cleared in getting to the World Transplant Games

Media Alert Sponsorship Presentation 11:30am Government Caucus Room (RG 80)

Australia’s youngest adult transplant games competitor nineteen year old Wollongong resident Jessica Sparks will be able to take part in the World Transplant Games in Sweden in June with the support of pharmaceutical company Abbott Australasia.

Miss Sparks suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder which affects most systems of the body, particularly the respiratory system.

At age 12, Jessica’s condition deteriorated and by age 16 she was diagnosed with end-stage lung disease and put on oxygen and bi-pap breathing devices. Her deteriorating condition meant that she could not walk, talk or breathe without assistance and her physical restrictions led to frustration for a girl who enjoyed participating in sports.

In 2009, Jessica received a double lung transplant at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Since then, she has graduated from high school, completed a college course with High Distinctions and is currently studying law and French at the University of Wollongong.

A passionate advocate for organ donation, in 2010 Jessica participated in the Australian Transplant Games winning 16 medals in sports including badminton, volleyball and athletics.

Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, first met Jessica and her family prior to her double lung transplant in 2009.

“Jessica has kept in touch since her operation and while she was celebrating the achievement of being able to represent her country at the World Transplant Games, she was also quite daunted by the huge costs involved,” Ms Bird said.

“Given her passionate advocacy of organ transplantation it is fantastic that Abbott Australasia’s sponsorship means that she is able to get out there on the sporting field to prove to the world that an organ transplant doesn’t set you back it means you are able to participate again”, Ms Bird said.

Dieter Torheiden, General Manager, Established Products Division, Abbott Australasia, will join Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing, and Sharon Bird today in presenting a $10,000 cheque to Chris Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of Transplant Australia.

"We are proud to support Jessica and Transplant Australia on their journey to the World Transplant Games," Mr Torheiden said.

"Organ donation offers transplant recipients a new lease on life, and through a wide range of products, we’re committed to doing our part in helping these recipients pursue that long, healthy life to its fullest," Mr Torheiden said.