At this year’s British Transplant Games, one athlete will have two mothers cheering him on – his own, and the mother of the organ donor who saved his life.
In 2011, 21-year-old Justin passed away suddenly. He had made it clear he wanted to donate his organs, which meant that part of his liver went to Kristof, who was just two at the time.
At age three, Kristof took part in his first British Transplant Games, and he has competed every year since then. He now boasts 17 British gold medals and seven World gold medals in three sports: table tennis, badminton, and tennis.
Kristof, now 15, and his family will be joined by Justin’s mum at this year’s Games, which is taking place between July 27 and July 30 in Coventry.
The families got in touch three years after Justin’s death, when his mother Angela, 58, wrote letters of introduction to the five people who were saved by her son’s organs.
Angela told The Mirror: “I wrote to say ‘I hope you’re recovering. It was my son who donated his organ to you and I hope it will help you live a long and happy life’.”
She heard back from four people, and Erika’s, Kristof’s mum, reply stuck with her.
The two mums met up in December 2016 with their families and Erika said it was “wonderful to be able to hug each other and say thank you in person”.
She added: “After those first few minutes with Angela, it felt like we had known each other for years.”
Six months before Justin’s death, he told Angela out of the blue that he wanted to be an organ donor.
His mum said: “It was devastating when we lost Justin, but we didn’t think twice about donating his organs, because I knew that’s what he wanted.”
The families have remained in contact and in 2019, Angela and her partner Chris watched Kristof win his gold medal in Newport.
Angela said: “I thought ‘Wow, Kristof is amazing’. Justin would be happy to know someone is using his liver and making the most of their life.”
The moment was made even more special when the two of them presented Kristof with his medal.
Speaking about his transplant, Kristof said that thanks to Angela and Justin he now has “amazing opportunities” ahead of him.
“It is so wonderful to have Angie in my life, it’s like gaining another family,” he added, and urged people to discuss their wishes with their loved ones, so everyone on the transplant list can be given a second chance.
Kristof was diagnosed with progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis just two months after he was born, which resulted in his liver being unable to drain bile.
Speaking about the “heartbreaking” ordeal, Erika said: “When he was one, he couldn’t even sit up because he didn’t have enough muscle mass, as he couldn’t absorb nutrients from his food.”
His life-saving transplant operation took place at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and he continues to represent the hospital at the Games each year.
Most recently, Kristof competed in the World Transplant Games in April this year. He took home four titles from the event in Perth and earned the prestigious “Best Overall Junior Athlete” prize.