Dad won the lottery

I was on a break during the Sunday tournaments and was getting ready to throw some chicken in a pan for dinner when I went to check my phone. My heart nearly pounded out of my chest when I saw several missed calls from my mother, my cousin, and my uncle, who I hardly ever talk to on the phone. What the hell was going on? As I scrolled through the calls I discovered a text message and breathed a huge sigh of relief. It said, "Your dad is getting a kidney tonight."

My father hadn't been feeling well the week before and I started freaking out a little, wondering if it could be a sign of something serious like acute kidney failure. His kidneys were already really bad, down to only 8% function, and he'd been on the transplant list for half a year. In the last two months he went on dialysis. We honestly didn't expect him to get a kidney this fast but it was a truly special moment when he did. As soon as the hospital called, he had to come in straight away to have the operation. The kidney was delivered from Belgium and we learned that it came from a 30 year-old donor. In all the joy over my dad, I forgot about the other side. It's pretty sad if you think about it. Someone's survival depends on someone else's death. But my dad saw it as a gift from heaven.

I used to tease my father for taking the train to Belgium to play the lottery. Belgium takes part in the Euro Millions, which has this huge prize of €100 million or something like that. My dad would go up there every other month to buy tickets and I thought it was so crazy. Why would you spend all that time and travel so far to have such a tiny, tiny chance to win? I thought it was only apropos that his new kidney came from Belgium. Turns out he did win the lottery, only a far more valuable one.

All of this really made me aware how important health is. Being healthy is so much more important than anything else in life. I used to be a top athlete, but once I started playing more poker, let's just say I got more in touch with my brain but less in touch with my body. I let my fitness go for a little bit, but now I'm back on track. One thing that really helped was buying a treadmill. These days, if I decide to watch TV, I'm on the treadmill at the same time, either walking or running.


I suppose the older you get, the more you are confronted with poor health. Your parents age, people around you pass away and you're confronted with mortality in a way that seems more immediate than when you were a kid. But today I think it's easier than ever to live a healthy lifestyle. When I was younger, I thought eating a piece of bread with cheese was the healthiest I could do. Now, there's so much information out there. People communicate more thanks to social media. I read about green juices on Twitter, I learn new exercises on Instagram, there are tons of websites about nutrition and organic food. I think the hardest thing now is trying to filter through all that information!

After my dad's transplant, both of us returned to Belgium. I went to Middelkerke to play a poker tournament, but my dad had other plans. I'm not sure if he picked up any lottery tickets on the way, but he wanted to visit a church in his donor's hometown and light a candle for the young man who saved his life.

Fatima Moreira de Melo is a member of Team PokerStars Pro