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Paying tribute to Winston Balada

Winston Balada joined SATSA in 1995 and in his years of service, contributed immensely to the South African Transplant Sports Association and the sporting family as a whole.  When he passed on from COVID-19 on 04 Jan 2021 it was a great shock to us as a Transplant family.

I first got to know Winston in 2015 while traveling as part of Team Transplant SA to the World Transplant Games in Argentina, South America.  It was during that trip that I saw how brave Winston really was.  This trip took the most out of all the athletes that was traveling to Argentina.  We got on a plane in Cape Town, flew to Dubai, met up with our team members from Durban and Johannesburg, got on another plane, flew to Brazil, flew to Buenos Aires, and then got on a bus to travel for about 7 hours to our destination:  Mar del Plata.  This was one long trip that took its toll on many athletes.  When the Games was over, we had to repeat this trip again!

Traveling with us was Winston.  What made this trip even more challenging for him, was that he was not just a kidney transplant recipient that had to take regular medicine, but he was also a double amputee.  Imagine traveling for almost 30 hours straight and doing that with and a wheelchair!  But this did not stop Winston.  This is when I witnessed his real character.  Winston never once complained during that trip.  He was there to encourage other athletes and was a solid part of the South African team during this trip.

Winston was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure at the age of 26 and got a kidney transplant in April 1993.  Eleven years after his transplant, Winston was diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and eventually lost both his legs.  His right leg was amputated in 2013 and the left leg in 2014.

Soon after his transplant he got involved in transplant sports after hearing about it at his transplant clinic.  He first represented South Africa at the Manchester Transplant Games in 1995.  Two years later he once again made it into the South African Transplant team that travelled to Sydney.  In 1997 in Budapest, Hungary Winston started noticing that he had a problem with his legs and after advice from his doctor on his return to South Africa, he decided to stop participating in athletics.

He decided to take up ten-pin bowling and bounced right back.  He went on to represent South Africa on an International stage at eight World Transplant Games and never stop advocating for organ donation and living a healthy life after transplant.

The last time I met Winston was in Panorama Medi-Clinic after he suffered some medical complications.  Although he looked very frail, he still had a huge smile on his face, and we chatted about the future.  He never felt sorry for himself and was an engaging and positive team-mate to have.

Winston will surely leave a gap in Transplant Sports and Organ Donor Awareness in the Western Cape.  He served his fellow athletes and was a role model for us.

May we always remember this humble man and great competitor.

Rest in peace Winston.

Vivian de Klerk