Connor and Brock Marvin, third and second from right, recently particpated in the World Transplant Games in South Africa as members of the United States volleyball and golf (pictured) teams.
Local brothers Brock and Connor Marvin traveled to Durban, South Africa, to take part in the 14 Annual World Transplant Games.
“It was an incredible trip,” said Connor.
The boys arrived in South Africa July 21 and made it home Aug. 7.
The brothers, along with their father Walter “Smitty” Marvin and step-mother Margot Roemischer took the two-week trip to South Africa, spending the first week in Krueger National Park before continuing to Durban for the games.
Brock and Connor both suffer from a rare heart condition called familial dilated cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart muscle disease they were both born with that required them to receive heart transplants within a year and a half of each other. Brock received a heart transplant in December 2010 and Connor received his 15 months after his brother in March 2012.
The Marvins joined transplant survivors from all around the world.
“It was really cool to see all the athletes,” Connor said. “The first day we joined the American team for the volleyball games and later in the week we played golf, both partners and singles. The last few days we watched track.”
Before going to the Games, Connor said he and his family took a week to explore South Africa, going to Kruger National Park.
“We figured we would make it a vacation, we went out into the park and it was just a free range huge National Park,” Connor said. “I’ve been to Parc Safari but this was incredible.”
Connor said he got to see all of the “Big Five” animals which included leopards, lions, rhinoceros, elephants and buffalo while there.
“We rented a car and just drove for the entire day through park,” he said. “Just as we were leaving we got to see a leopard just a mile from the exit. I thought it was really great to see it and then when we told people they told us some locals had never even seen a leopard, so I guess it was pretty rare.”
Connor said when they left the park and started playing golf in Durban for the games it was pretty much like playing at home in Elizabethtown, with some exceptions.
“I‘ve played golf before but I’ve never played golf with monkeys in the trees at the course,” said Connor. “It was a little different.”
Though he was in a much different place, Connor said one comfort from being among so many people who had undergone the same sort of surgery he had was they all had a connection that didn’t need to be explained.
“The coolest part was talking to people who know what you’ve been through,” Connor said. “It was a place where you could just walk up to someone and say, ‘hey are you on pro graf?’ and not have to explain it.”
Prograf is a medication used to prevent your body from rejecting a heart, liver, or kidney transplant.
While in Africa, Connor said he and his brother met the twin brothers from Great Britain who had both had heart transplants.
“They told me they were the only identical twins to ever have heart transplants and that we were the only brothers they had met who both had heart transplants,” he said.
The trip was made possible through a sponsorship by the Boston’s Children Hospital, who performed both heart transplants.
“I don’t even know how much they gave us to go with flight, hotel and food and everything but it was really nice of them to send us there,” said Connor.
Connor said throughout his experience he wanted to thank the Boston’s Children Hospital as well as the countless people who volunteer to be an organ donor.
“Alot of people know that by being an organ donor you can save up to 10 lives but you can affect the lives of so many more people,” said Connor. “The most important thing is to sign up to be an organ donor, you don’t know how many lives you can save.”
Shortly after returning from Durban, Brock returned to college in Atlanta, Ga., while Connor moved to Palm Coast, Fla.
“It’s time to start a new chapter of my life,” he said.