Patrice Maude

RUNNING FOR HER LIFE
'Oh! What a Privilege'

If you could have a perfect day in your life - the 8th Of August, 2000 was mine. Why? It was the day I was to run in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch Relay, in Traralgon, in country Victoria.

This run was a triumph of endurance and the human spirit since, two weeks prior to the occasion, I was in The Alfred Hospital fighting for my life after having my stomach removed. I knew that it was going to be hard work to get fit enough to be able to walk the required 500 metres of the relay, but I was determined not to do it in a wheelchair. I knew that I would have to dig deep and be prepared to push myself again, like I had in 1995, when I had the heart and double-lung transplant, but the prize at the end of it would be worth it!!

This dream, of being in the relay team, was not mine alone, but one held by thousands of worthy Australians, and I still cannot believe that I was selected! My family, and my friends, shared my dream, and were there everyday, encouraging me and so making the task that much easier.

After all the care and attention I received from the Alfred 'team', and my 'support-crew' over the next ten weeks, we finally arrived in Traralgon to achieve our dream

I put the uniform on and paraded around like a kid on their first day at school - just pinching myself every now and then to make sure that this was really happening, and not one of my medicinally inspired dreams!

The sun was shining, after a rainy night, and I was feeling fine. My family and friends had journeyed up from Melbourne - a 2 hour trip - and there were thousands of spectators lining the streets, all happy and cheering!

I was dropped off at my spot, to wait nervously while all those people seemed to watch my every move! I just hoped that I would neither fall, trip over, or have a heart attack, or - worse - drop the Torch!!! But I was determined to enjoy every second of this wonderful seven minutes of my life.

Finally, the moment arrived, the Torch was lit, and, with the escort runner and security people, I started my run. Many of my friends say that I have never walked so fast, and that they had to run to keep up with me. There were thousands of people clapping and waving flags.

Every time I looked around at the crowd, there was someone I knew, which gave me a lift - even my G.P for thirty years was there, as were two other transplantees, Chris Tew, and Jane O'Connell.

It was a day of great emotion both for the Torch-Bearers and the myriad cheering spectators. For me, as I walked along, so many thoughts and emotions went through my mind. I thought about all the things that had happened over the last few years, and my family, especially my husband, David (who had nominated me) and what sacrifices they had made for me, and thankfulness - especially to my donor family - and, most of all, pride in being Australian.

I finally completed the 500 metres - bloody hard work!!! - but the feeling of relief that I'd done it, and without stopping, was great. As I looked around at the crowd for my family and friends, I saw that they were all crying - we had done what, ten weeks earlier, had seemed impossible.

Since the run, I have visited ten schools, to 'show and tell' them about the Torch Relay, which has been a most enjoyable experience, and it was also an excellent opportunity to promote Organ Transplantation. The kids could not believe that I had been given a heart/lung transplant, since I looked so 'normal'!!

It's hard to put the experience into words, but it's a day I will look back on with great pride, and thank God that I was able to achieve it; but thanks are also due to all the people who have helped me to make the dream a reality, and never let me give up.

SPEECH BY PATRICE MAUDE,

ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF HER AUSTRALIAN SPORTS MEDAL

Mr Reith. Mr Rowe, ladies and gentleman.

I cannot begin to tell you how proud and honoured I am to receive this medal for my sporting achievements.

I can't believe how far I have come and what has happened in the last 10 years.

I think that it's a story of faith, hope and courage.

Faith - I had to put my faith in medical technology and the kindness of a stranger, who would be facing a tragedy to give me a second chance at life.

Hope - that I could physically and mentally get through whatever I needed to.

And courage that once I had the transplant, that I would live life to the fullest

The fulfilment that I get from playing sport is amazing, and I can't believe that I am out there. Sometimes I get spiritual and think about what has happened and how lucky I am and just try to have the time of my life - seeing how good this new body really is.

I guess I always wandered how good a sportsperson I would have been, coming from such a sporting family, and then, joining the Transplant team, I soon found out. When I represented Victoria I thought that was great, but then being selected to represent Australia was something I never dreamed about, and it is hard to describe the feeling you have when you're marching in an Australian team with such courageous people.

And then last year to be a torchbearer was fantastic, especially only ten weeks after my stomach had been removed - It was one of my 'Mt Everest' and one of my greatest moments

I could never have achieved the things I have without the support of so many remarkable and caring people. Everyone here and others who are now with God have assisted me. We have ridden the roller coaster together, you have taught me that real friendship is not just about being there when things are going well but being there when things are tough and often painful.

I have also learnt about self-belief. If I believed in myself, I could do just about anything, despite the odds. You are proud of me whatever I do whether I come first or last - you make me always feel a winner. I am the person I am because of you, and could never thank you enough.

I am privileged to have been employed at Gendore for almost 5 years, and they put their faith in me when no one else would, and have been so supportive, and always allowed me time off to attend my sporting activities

There is one person in particular that I wish to thank, and that is, of course my husband, David. As without his endless love, patience and encouragement for the last twenty years I would not be here today. He has had to walk the long and often uncertain road, but I know that we share an extraordinary bond and understanding.

I believe that God wanted me here for a reason. I think a lot of it has to do with your spirit wanting to live. When people hear my story I hope that they can look at themselves, and be inspired, and know that you can get through the tough days. Although your problems may seem impossible don't ever give up hope because dreams do come true. No matter how hard things seem you can still help someone else and make the world a better place.

( I have made some minor alterations to Patrice's own words so that they 'read' right as text rather than as a speech - Editor))