A for Athlete


  • Tennis player who has a kidney from a friend and donor.


Transplant Recipient Shares Inspirational Story[]

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ― Dozens of athletes of all ages gathered in Schenley Park for some singles tennis and all of the players have something in common. They all have either given or received an organ.

These are the Transplant Games.

"It's wonderful. It's many survivors, people who have wonderful stories to tell," George Shempeno, a transplant recipient, said.

George's story was first told on KDKA nine years ago when he was a 55-year-old waiting for a kidney transplant.

"My brother who is testing right now and nearing the end of his testing and will likely get an approval as a donor. At the same time, a long-time friend [of] over 40 years, a gal by the name of Kate Zahorchak, is also testing," Shempeno said at the time.

It turned out, Kate was an even better match than George's own brother and donated one of her kidneys to her friend back in 1999.

"When you are in trouble, you don't know who's going to save you - you have no idea," George said. "You think you do, you think it's going to be someone in your family. The people in my immediate family didn't match.

"Kate came along and said, 'I not only will match but I can do this.' Never a hesitation right from Day 1," George said.

"Somebody's quality of life is being threatened, and my quality of life is great," Kate Zahorchak said. "It was an experience, and one I don't ever regret."

And today, the two celebrated organ donation together - George by playing tennis and Kate by cheering him on.

Both had advice to anyone who finds themselves on the fence about whether or not to donate.

"Get off the fence," Zahorchak said. "It's not life threatening. It's an operation, a few weeks out of your life, but you can give somebody the gift of life which is so much more than you can do in any other walk of life."

"Become an organ donor and you should be prepared to do that, to save someone and give them back their life," Shempeno said.

And for George, while he enjoys winning these events when he can, it's about simply being able to compete that means the most.

"Well, I've decided that I'm always going to be active and that at some point in time when I'm not able to run and chase tennis balls, I'll find something else to do," he said.

The events continue tomorrow which is the final day of the Transplant Games. Closing ceremonies are at 8 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.