Camelon archer Martin Strang prepares for Transplant Games and meeting with his donor’s family
Toby Hart was just 16 years old when he fell 60ft from a cliff to his death in July 2012.
He was on holiday in Cornwall with his parents Sally and Graham and wee brother Stephen when the accident occurred, two days short of his 17th birthday.
Just hours after his death, his parents decided to honour Toby’s wishes and donate his organs.
His heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas were all used to help change other people’s lives for the better.
Among their number was Martin Strang, from Camelon, who received a kidney and pancreas.
And the 46-year-old is preparing to thank Toby’s family for their incredible gift in person at the 2019 British Transplant Games in Newport in July.
Martin took up archery in 2015 and decided to honour Toby by competing in the 2016 British Transplant Games in North Lanarkshire, where he won a gold medal.
He has since gone on to win countless trophies and medals, most recently at the British Transplant Games in Birmingham in August 2018, when he won silver in archery for his age group.
He has also been selected for Team GB at the World Transplant Games in Newcastle this August.
It’s not a bad track record for someone who freely admits to not having a competitive bone in his body, prior to his transplant.
And Martin attributes his success to Toby.
Indeed, he wears armguards and a quiver belt in his donor’s honour at every competitive match.
He said: “Every time I pick up a bow, it’s because of Toby.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you or competing with Team GB had it not been for him.
“It is only possible because he signed the organ donor register and made his wishes known to his family.
“It’s difficult to explain just how much his incredible gift has meant to me.”
Martin was placed on the transplant list in April 2008 and spent four years on dialysis before receiving the call he had long waited for.
He’d been at the bingo and won £5, then discoverd his phone was on silent and there were 25 missed calls!
Within three months of the transplant, he started his new job as an insurance broker and attended the Star Trek exhibition at the ExCeL Arena in London.
He also enjoyed his first holiday in four years, visiting his sister in Italy.
And it was following that holiday that Martin decided to send a thank you letter to Toby’s family.
When he received a letter from them six months later, he discovered some very strange coincidences.
“We’d visited Lake Garda when we were in Italy and that was one of the last places Toby visited,” he said.
“I got a taste for bagels and coffee when I was there, which Toby loved and I bought a motorbike, which he had also wanted.”
Martin wrote to the family, via the transplant co-ordinator, several times; they were delighted to hear that he was living life to the full.
Then, in 2017 he attended a donor families memorial service where he hoped to meet them.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be but fate played a part in the seating arrangements.
“It turned out that one of the men at the table knew Toby’s family,” he said.
And in September 2018, Toby’s mum Sally contacted Martin directly, via a message on Facebook.
They have remained in regular contact since and plan to meet up at the Games in Newport this July.
Martin said: “It is unusual for a recipient to meet their donor’s family and, to be honest, I am a bit nervous.
“But it’s thanks to them and their son that I am able to live a “normal” life.
“I want to say thank you to them in person.
“I’m sure it will be a pretty emotional meeting but we’ve been in touch regularly since September and it feels like I already know them.
“I’ve told them all about my archery and shown them my medals and they’ve told me all about Toby too.”
Martin decided to share his story to encourage other people to join the register and discuss their wishes with family members.
He added: “Even if you have signed the register, your family can veto it.
“That’s why it’s so important to share your decision and make your wishes known.
“Without Toby, I wouldn’t be here today.
“Both he and his family helped me get my life back and I will forever be grateful for that gift.”
To find out more about the donor register or to sign up, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.
Martin has triumphed over adversity
Martin, who was born in Doncaster and brought up in Milton Keynes, has had to overcome many challenges in his 46 years.
He was born with a congenital heart condition, known as dextrocardia, and sacral-agenesis, a congenital condition which affects the spine – three pieces of Martin’s lower spine were missing.
Aged three-and-a-half, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which ultimately led to his kidneys failing.
After moving to Falkirk in 2001, he was also diagnosed with brittle bone disease.
Following his transplant in July 2012, for the first time in 37 years Martin was no longer insulin-dependent.
Sadly, the pancreas stopped working on New Year’s Eve 2017 but his new kidney is still working well, meaning he’s now able to enjoy a relatively ‘normal’ life.
He made the most of his second chance, joining the Falkirk Company of Archers in 2015.
He has gone on to represent Scotland and Team GB at British, European and World Transplant Games.
Following his meeting with Toby’s family in Newport this July, he’ll be focusing all his energies on his Team GB place at the World Transplant Games in August.
And Martin is hoping readers can help get him there.
He said: “Athletes have to self-fund their attendance and it costs around £1500 for the event, training days, uniforms and travel.
“Any help would be greatly appreciated.
“Please help me to attend and help me continue to honour my donor, Toby.”
Martin has set up a funding page to raise the money.
If you’d like to support him, visit www.gofundme.com/world-transplant-games-03919-funding.