Heart transplant patient David Gibbs takes on charity challenge in aid of Papworth Hospital

James Gibbs and his father David, cycling, get in some final training
James Gibbs and his father David, cycling, get in some final training
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A FATHER who had a heart transplant less than a year ago will attempt to cycle along Hadrian’s Wall alongside his son and nephew.

David Gibbs, 57, of Belton-in-Rutland, will cycle 84 miles along Hadrian’s Wall, as his son James Gibbs and nephew Ed Straker run alongside him.

The challenge was the brainchild of James and Ed who wanted to raise money for Papworth Hospital, where David had a heart transplant in June last year.

David, who is married to Marcia, decided to get involved to raise awareness of the importance of organ donors.

He said: “I can’t pretend the cycle ride is going to be easy but when James and Ed told me what they were going to do, I thought that’s an incredible achievement and something to get involved in.

“I would say if there’s anyone worried about becoming a donor, just look at what a difference it can make to someone’s life.

“I haven’t felt as well in 20 years. That’s the reason I’m doing this.”

David was diagnosed with cardio-myopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, in 1990 during a medical check. The diagnosis didn’t upset him “unduly” because there was a family history of heart disease.

In 1993, David was fitted with a pacemaker to control the disease, which was causing an abnormal heart rhythm.

However, in December 2006, when David had a cardiac arrest and collapsed as he walked to work in London. He says his life was undoubtedly saved by two policemen who were passing.

David, a pension funds manager in London, said: “I was extremely lucky that they were passing and it’s partly thanks to them that I’m here today.”

He had fitted an internal defibrillator, which shocks the heart when it goes into cardiac arrest to reset the heartbeat.

David was rushed into hospital

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in March last year when the defibrillator was unable to control the amount of times he was having a heart attack. He was in and out of hospital until he was taken to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge on May 7, where he remained until having the heart transplant on June 16.

David, who is also father to Harriet, 21, and Emily-Rose, 25, said: “The heart transplant went well as far as I’m concerned. The hospital were unbelievably good and the staff become like a second family.

“It is obviously a cause close to my heart, so to speak.”

Before the transplant, David said he was constantly tired, breathless and had no energy, but he now has a new lease of life.

He said: “It was just really bad but I can’t begin to describe how much better I feel. I think the cycle ride will still be a challenge for me.”

Although David is committed to the ride, he says he is conscious of his fitness levels and will stop if it gets too much.

He plans to write to the donor’s family, via the hospital’s liaison team, in June - a year after the transplant.

He said: “It’s just something I want to do to express my gratitude to them.”

Since David’s transplant, members of his family, including James, have been inspired to join the organ donor register.

James, 21, a broker in London, said the trio wanted to raise as much as possible.

He said: “Dad was in hospital for quite a long time so it gave me plenty of time to see first hand the incredible treatment, car and support that Papworth provides for its patients.”

James is an experienced runner and in 2007, he ran the London Marathon in aid of the British Heart Foundation. Ed, 19, a student who lives in Northumberland, also runs.

They hope to complete the challenge in two days on Tuesday and Wednesday, starting at the east in Cumbria and completing 50 miles on the first day. The remaining 34 miles, which are on much steeper terrain, will be completed on the second day.

To sponsor their effort visit www.bmycharity.com/V2/jamesandedrunhadrianswall or to find out about joining the organ donor register visit www.uktransplant.org.uk.

Betweean April 1 last year and March 31 this year there were 131 heart transplants in the UK.