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'I never thought that would happen' - Suffolk caretaker fulfils childhood dream to represent Team GB in athletics

PUBLISHED: 15:50 01 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:14 01 June 2018

Michelle Mitchell, from Felixstowe, is representing Great Britain in the World Transplant Games    Picture: GREGG BROWN

Michelle Mitchell, from Felixstowe, is representing Great Britain in the World Transplant Games Picture: GREGG BROWN

A Suffolk athlete will fulfil her childhood ambition to represent Team Great Britain thanks to a lifesaving transplant operation.

Michelle Mitchell and the gold medal winning relay team at the World Transplant Games Picture: ADRIAN MITCHELLMichelle Mitchell and the gold medal winning relay team at the World Transplant Games Picture: ADRIAN MITCHELL

Michelle Mitchell, from Felixstowe, jets off to Sardinia later this month with other international athletes who have overcome serious illness to compete in the European Transplant Sport Championship.

The 57-year-old, who works as a caretaker at Kingsfleet Primary School, was given just months to live five years ago but underwent life-saving liver transplant surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Before her operation, the mother-of-two ran for Felixstowe Road Runners and completed two London Marathons – but side-effects from her treatment drugs cut short her long-distance racing.

She has since returned to competitive athletics, picking up a gold, bronze and two silver medals at last year’s World Transplant Games in Malaga, where she sprinted in 100, 200 and 400 metre competitions.

Michelle Mitchell celebrates one of her silvers at the World Transplant Games Picture: ADRIAN MITCHELLMichelle Mitchell celebrates one of her silvers at the World Transplant Games Picture: ADRIAN MITCHELL

Looking ahead to Sardinia, Mrs Mitchell said: “It was always a childhood ambition to represent my country on the running track.

“I never thought that would happen, but because of a successful transplant operation I have managed to fulfil my childhood dream. I didn’t see having a transplant as a death sentence, it made me sit up and think ‘wow what wonderful lives we have’. Through sport I can show people that a woman in her late 50s with a transplant can still compete at a high level.”

Mrs Mitchell also attend a recent 50th anniversary celebration of the first transplant carried out in the UK, where she gave a presentation about its successes.

The games, which run from June 17-24, will feature more than 50 GB athletes supported by the charity Transplant Sport.

Michelle Mitchell and the gold medal winning relay team at the World Transplant Games Picture: WTGMALAGA2017PHOTO.COMMichelle Mitchell and the gold medal winning relay team at the World Transplant Games Picture: WTGMALAGA2017PHOTO.COM

“All our athletes are gold medallists, in that they have all won their race for life,” said Lynne Holt from the charity. “However, the true champions are those individuals that gave the gift of life, offering all these athletes their second chance to live.”

“Hopefully this international event will encourage others to sign on to the Organ Donor Register, but most importantly, discuss their donation wishes with their families now.”

Mrs Mitchell thanked her sponsors and her donor’s family.

Visit Transplant Sport for more information.

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