WINNER: Goonellabah’s Craig Robinson and his proud wife Trish.
WINNER: Goonellabah’s Craig Robinson and his proud wife Trish. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Transplanted to sporting success

ALMOST 20 years ago doctors told Craig Robinson he had less than a year to live.

Today he's not only alive and kicking, but last week took home a swag of medals from the Australian Transplant Games in Melbourne, an event held to celebrate the "second chance" of life for transplant recipients.

But getting from cancer to the podium hasn't been an easy A-to-B victory lap for Craig.

His body riddled with tumours when he was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1996, he wasn't expected to live out the year.

Chance played a role, however, in him being one of the first patients to undergo a then trial form of stem cell bone marrow transplant.

"I was a guinea pig basically - one of the first in Australia," Mr Robinson said.

"If I didn't have it I would have died. They had no hope. Everything else had failed."

The post-treatment rehab left him in a hospital bed for four months, but the cancer was killed off.

But while he was dubbed a "miracle patient" by doctors, the reality was some very serious and life-altering side affects.

"For 13 years I was just stuck in bed... chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia; all these horrible symptoms," Craig recalled.

Later, he had a stroke which temporarily paralysed the right side of his body and may have caused the onset of Parkinson's disease.

One day and against all odds, he began exercising. At first keeping it secret from his wife and carer Trish, he started doing push-ups before turning up to local martial arts classes.

"I started to find the symptoms of Parkinson's started to reduce... the more I exercised the better I felt."

After hearing about the Transplant Games, he decided to enter.

Turning up in Melbourne expecting to "come 100th to give me something to aim for next time", Craig smashed the field in his 100m and 400m sprint events and took out two gold. He added a silver in the 1500m, and a bronze in the 50m backstroke to boot.



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