Carlie Newton does not remember having the liver transplant that saved her life.
Now 16, Carlie was only 3 months old when her mother, Cindy, donated part of her liver to her baby daughter. Because of that, the Newtons, of Geneseo, Ill., will travel to Texas this weekend for the Transplant Games in Houston.
The family includes Carlie's father, Vince, and is among seven from the Quad-City region planning to attend the games. For instance, Katina Waldorf of LeClaire has had a kidney transplant and is taking her children along to Texas.
The Transplant Games are intended to highlight the cause of organ donations and lifesaving transplants. There will be an estimated 2,000 athletes participating.
Newton will run track, and play volleyball and basketball at the games. Waldorf plans to run track, play poker and take part in a trivia contest.
Waldorf, 40, found out she had polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, 15 years ago. The inherited genetic disorder can cause one's kidneys to fail, and that's what happened to her five years ago.
About that time, she became pregnant with her youngest child, now 4 years old. Right after the baby was born, Waldorf went on dialysis for a year. She learned that a donor kidney was available for transplant the same day her oldest daughter was graduating from high school.
She missed the ceremony but found new life with the transplant that was performed at University Hospitals in Iowa City. Waldorf said she follows a healthy diet and exercises regularly for fitness.
"I do feel wonderful," she added.
"It's just amazing what they can do now with transplants."
Waldorf decided to play poker at the Transplant Games because her family plays Texas hold 'em poker on holidays. She has always enjoyed trivia and chose to take part in the track and field events to show her children what she can do.
The message from Waldorf is that a transplant does not mean a person has to slow down their life.
"You can lead a healthy, happy, normal life even though you've been through this," she said. "As sick as I once was, I've come back stronger than ever."
This will be the fourth Transplant Games that Newton has taken part in. She goes, the teen said, because others at the events have had similar experiences, and that's not common in a community the size of Geneseo.
Newton received her transplant in Chicago, but that program has ended. She now uses the transplant services at University Hospitals.
Like Waldorf, Newton takes daily anti-rejection medicine. She stores hers in a special key chain, and it's also held by her team coaches.
Newton is a cheerleader at Geneseo, making her a member of a squad that competes in cheer contests. During the squad's stunts, she can usually be found on top of the formations.
"I'm the one who goes up in the air," she said.
The first Transplant Games that Newton attended were in Pittsburgh in 2008, when she was 10 years old. She described those games as a "great bonding experience," adding that she stays in contact with the other youth she meets.
As of 2013, according to Donate Life America, there were 122,000 individuals in the United States awaiting a life-saving organ transplant, 2,114 of them pediatric patients. Last year, there were 28,953 organs transplanted from 14,257 donors.