Badminton is a sport for all. Young, old, tall or small, it’s no wonder it’s the UK’s most popular racket sport.
Yet for Sarah Moody, badminton has taken her to heights she never thought she would reach – namely 14 medals and counting at the World Transplant Games.
As a youngster, Sarah was a keen basketball player, and represented Norfolk and South East England until she was diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of 13.
Born with only one kidney, Sarah continued to play basketball as much as possible, but as the organ deteriorated, she became increasingly tired and took regular medication before being placed on the transplant list.
On her 18th birthday, her mum donated a kidney, but three years later her body rejected the organ and Sarah was placed on hemodialysis.
Unable to engage in contact sport, Sarah switched from one court to another and took up badminton, and played as much as her body would allow – until a phone call 14 years ago changed her life.
“On 11 March 2003 I received a call to say a match had been found,” she said.
“I had another transplant, it all went well, and I’ve been fit ever since. I’ve had no major issues, no signs of rejection, so now I just like to keep fit.
“It was hard to exercise when I was on dialysis, I didn’t really have the energy but I tried to live as normal a life as possible.
“I didn’t want it to start ruling my life, so I tried to keep as fit as I could, but not to the level I’d have liked to.”
But following the success of her second transplant, Sarah – now 42 – has never once looked back, going on to represent her country at the World Transplant Games just two years later.
An international sporting event for transplant athletes, the Games demonstrates the physical success of transplant surgery and the ability of recipients to lead healthy, normal lives.
At the latest edition of the Games, in Malaga in June, Great Britain’s badminton stars won 48 medals – 16 of them gold, including one for Sarah herself.
Never could she have imagined having a transplant would open the doors to so many opportunities, and with a whole host of medals now in her collection, 14 to be precise, Sarah really is living life to the full.
“I first went to the British Transplant Games in 2004, did reasonably well and then got selected to represent Great Britain at the World Transplant Games in 2005,” she said.
“I’ve been to Canada, Thailand, Australia, Sweden and most recently Malaga, but I had to give it a miss for a couple of years to get married as it’s self-funded.
“I came away from Malaga with a gold in the ladies’ doubles and a bronze in the singles, as well as a silver in basketball!
“Playing against transplant recipients from all over the world is incredible. I could never have imagined I would do this at first. I didn’t have a lot of energy, but I don’t let too many things stand in my way.
“I always wanted to lead a normal life like all my friends, but to now be playing badminton at the level I am and to visit all these places around the world, it’s amazing.
“For something that has been quite negative, it’s turned into a positive later on in life.”
In August 2019, Newcastle Gateshead will host the World Transplant Games, the first time the event has been held on British soil since Manchester in 1995.
And with just two years to go, Sarah is hopeful the Games’ arrival in the north east can spur more people on to supporting transplant sport.
“It’s really, really important to raise awareness of the World Transplant Games,” she added.
“If we could get more coverage like the Paralympics and other events have, it would be amazing to show how transplants give people a whole new lease of life.”
Photos: Phil Horan Photography