A father and his son who both suffered heart attacks have teamed up to tackle a major cycling events – in memory of the organ donor who gave one of them life.
Reg Chisholm received a life-saving heart transplant 17 years ago and will complete the Etape Loch Ness course wearing a jersey bearing a tribute to the unknown donor who has enabled him to live his life to the full.
The 62-year-old, from Dunbar, was gravely ill when he was put on the transplant waiting list after suffering a serious heart attack.
Incredibly, less than 24 hours after being told by doctors his only chance of survival was a new heart, he got the call that would change his life. The operation took place a matter of hours later and was a huge success.
But the family suffered another trauma five years ago, when Reg’s son, Barry, had a heart attack at the age of just 37. He pulled through and is now being treated for his condition with medication.
Reg, a mechanical engineer, said: “Thanks is not a strong enough term for what my donor did for me. I want to honour his life by living mine to the full – I’ve got a duty to him and his family to look after this heart, and that’s why exercise has become so important to me.”
Speaking about the heart donation, he said: “It was overwhelming. It had been intended for another patient, but as he was in Aberdeen and not able to travel to Glasgow Royal Infirmary in time because there was thick fog. Sadly, it’s just the luck of the draw – I had my new heart in a matter of hours, but some people have to wait for years.
Within a short amount of time Reg was clocking up the miles on long bike rides and was invited to take part in the Transplant Games as a time trial cyclist and 20k road race. He’s competed at transplant events at British, European and World level – bagging medals of every colour along the way. Now he can not wait to take part on the Loch Ness course - a 66-mile sportive which loops the iconic loch - on April 23 to raise money for organ donation campaigns.
Barry, now 42, also of Dunbar, says he followed his dad’s lead by exercising to keep his heart healthy and to help stave off the threat of another heart attack. They have already taken part in a number of cycling events together, and Barry often tows his Scottie dog, Hamish, in a trailer.
Hamish shot to fame in 2014 when he and Barry, along with Barry’s son Aaron, 14, led Team Scotland out at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
In addition to helping his dad raise awareness about organ donation, Barry will be raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of friend, James Merritt, who died last year.
He said: “Exercise is so important to keep the heart healthy, and cycling is great because it’s something that my dad and I can do together. We’ve come to love our Saturday morning jaunts.
“My dad was so ill: the transplant not only changed his life, it saved his life. He’s really got into the cycling and it’s helped him to lose weight and look after his heart. He’s now a lean, mean cycling machine and I am so proud – and so grateful – to be able to cycle with him.”