Gift of Donated Tissue Saves Tennis Player's Career

Luis Viñales | Tissue Recipient

The first time Luis Viñales picked up a tennis racquet, he knew it would somehow change his life. 

“I picked up a wooden racquet at the age of 9, and magically, when I picked it up, I realized this was my path. What I didn’t know was when or how,” he said.

Luis had lost his right leg below the knee after being in a serious car accident as a child. The challenges that injury posed, however, did not diminish his ambition. He dreamed of representing his country, Chile, on the world stage and of serving as an inspiring example for others facing hardships. He played tennis intermittently for years until he was introduced to coach who saw in Luis the potential for something special.

“[He] told me that there was adaptive tennis that he believed I could make a real contribution to and … become a role model,” Luis said. “It all served to really bring me back to when I was 9 years old when I felt that this was my path, that dreams really do exist.”

Through years of training, and with the support of his coach and family, he became one of the world’s stop adaptive tennis players. But those years of work had taken a toll. The cartilage in his knee, which bears the weight and force of his prosthetic leg, had become damaged. The pain was so severe that it threatened to end his tennis career and leave him unable to even get around normally.

“The overexertion in certain movements limited me, and I was unable to walk. I felt a throbbing pain in my daily life, so that really made my life difficult,” he said.

The gift of donated tissue, though, changed everything. His surgeon in Chile used a transplant of donated cartilage to repair the damage to his knee, giving Luis another chance to inspire others through his perseverance and determination.

“It was a rebirth. I felt that if I can walk again, I can fly again,” he said. “In reality, the transplant, the team, the gift, the motivation that have been given to me were really like giving me new wings. I feel like I can do anything.”

Since his surgery, Luis is undergoing a physical therapy program to support his recovery, and he is working toward his return to the court.