Why Asda chief Roger Burnley is backing Leeds 2021 Transplant Games

IT could not be an issue any closer to Asda CEO Roger Burnley’s heart.
Asda CEO Roger Burnley and daughter JodieAsda CEO Roger Burnley and daughter Jodie
Asda CEO Roger Burnley and daughter Jodie

Mr Burnley says he is “eternally grateful” to the anonymous donor who came to the rescue when his daughter Jodie, then 18, was battling a severe lung infection as a result of cystic fibrosis.

Jodie - who is now 26 and “fighting fit” - was on oxygen 24-hours-a-day before her life-saving double lung transplant in 2012 took place.

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Now Mr Burley has announced he is taking on the role as chair for the Westfield Health British Transplant Games when the event comes to Leeds in 2021.

Jodie has to have a double lung transplant when she was just 18Jodie has to have a double lung transplant when she was just 18
Jodie has to have a double lung transplant when she was just 18

The event, organised on behalf of the charity Transplant Sport, is a flagship event that aims to raise awareness of the life-saving benefits of transplantation.

The 2020 Games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic but transplant athletes will head to West Yorkshire next summer.

Mr Burnley will chair the event’s Stakeholder Board – the group responsible for delivering the Games in each host city.

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Jodie was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that affects the lungs and the digestive system, and had been on the waiting list for nearly a year, when the transplant took place.

The operation was life-changing and one her family is thankful for every day.

Mr Burnley said he hoped more people would talk to their families about donating before their organs, before their deaths.

He said: “Eight years on, Jodie is fighting fit, has got a master’s degree from the University of Leeds and runs her own business.

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“I can never express how important transplantation has been for our family and how eternally grateful I am to Jodie’s donor. Sadly, too many people do not have the same outcome.

“While the law has changed to be opt-out rather than opt-in, many families do not know that their next of kin wished to donate their organs and can overrule this decision.

“That’s why I want everyone to have the donation conversation with their families, so that our loved ones are aware of our wishes. It’s a talk that could save someone’s life.”

The retail veteran, who has been President and CEO of Asda since 2018, grew up in Dewsbury and still lives nearby with his wife, two children and a growing flock of sheep.

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He is passionate about Leeds and believes it will be a fantastic location for the Games in August 2021, when athletes will take part in more than 20 sports in venues across the city.

The Huddersfield Town FC fan said: “Leeds always turns up for sporting events, whether that’s the Tour de France or Tour de Yorkshire, the Triathlon, the Half Marathon, Tests at Headingley or matches at Elland Road.

“It’s also a great boost for our city, especially the leisure and hospitality sectors, at a time when many of our great businesses need it most.”

More than 6,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in the UK. Sadly on average three people die every day because of a lack of donors.

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