AMHERST - Laura Gaudet is now a world medalist. The eight-year-old Amherst girl came back from the 2009 World Transplant Games in Australia at the end of August with a bronze medal wrapped around her neck.
The medal was one of her goals a few months ago when she registered for the games. Although she registered for the bowling and 50-metre run, Laura ended up competing in the ball throw competition instead of bowling.
"I was really excited about winning the medal," she said, adding it was her favourite part of the trip."
Just a mere three-and-a-half weeks after Laura was born, doctors found a tumour on Laura's heart.
At the age of three-and-a-half-months, Laura underwent a heart transplant.
Flying out of Halifax on Aug. 18, Laura, Sherry Lynn, Claude, and Laura's siblings Adam and Carrie, arrived in Brisbane, Australia, on Aug. 20. The games started two days later.
Laura's mom, Sherry Lynn, said the bowling competition involved the big bowling balls, so Laura switched to the ball throw.
"Which was a great move, because she won the medal," Sherry Lynn said. "I wasn't there when she won because Carrie was sick, but Laura apparently couldn't stop smiling. She even made another mom cry."
"The opening ceremonies were really great," said Sherry Lynn, noting that without people signing their donor cards, none of the athletes from 48 countries would have been there.
Because her contests didn't start for a few days, Laura and her family had a chance to spend time on the beach (which was directly across the road from their hotel), swim in the hotel's pool, shop and visit Paradise Farms and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
"We saw koala bears and kangaroos, and at the farm we got the pet the kangaroos," Laura said with a smile on her face.
"The whole thing was an amazing experience," said Sherry Lynn. "Just everything about it and meeting people from all around the world that had gone through transplants. We never had that opportunity before.
"Meeting the other parents was really moving. It was great to be with a group of people where you can all relate to the others' stories."
Sherry Lynn said one of the most emotional part for Claude was seeing donor families during the experience.
Thanks to the open hearts, and wallets, of residents in the community, Laura was able to make the trip to Australia with her entire family, giving them all memories that will last a lifetime.
Not knowing if $15,000 could be raised so all the family could go, Sherry Lynn said it was amazing to see the amount of support they received and is thankful for it.
"Even a few days before we left, we still had people donating money to us," she said.