Friday 17th July

Transplant athletes on an epic journey to cycle from Bristol to the Institute of Transplantation at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital will be greeted with open arms when they arrive at the Institute of Transplantation at the Freeman Hospital on Monday 20 July, 10 days before the Westfield Health British Transplant Games (WHBTG) take place on Tyneside and four days after their journey began at the home of Bristol City FC.

Tackling an incredible 342 miles, heart transplantee Kevin Mashford, has recruited 60 riders to join him for all or part of the journey, which is being billed as the ultimate British Transplant Games warm up.

Professor Greg Whyte OBE has been training Kevin and is also taking part in the ride, said: “Cycling 340 miles is a major feat of endurance for anyone, but for a man who has had a heart transplant it is an extraordinary challenge. Kevin is a remarkable individual whose indomitable spirit is an inspiration to us all.”

Kevin was referred to the Freeman Hospital in 2012, 330 miles from his home in Bristol, and told a heart transplant was his only chance of survival, following a series of operations to treat a rare heart condition. On the 4th May 2013, the team at the Freeman Hospital’s Institute of Transplantation performed a 13 hour transplant operation, transforming Kevin’s life.

Talking about his donor, John, Kevin said: “I wanted to know about my donor immediately. I couldn’t stop thinking about him and his family. I later found out a little about him, his first name and that he died in a cycling accident. Seven days after surgery I asked for an exercise bike. Still tubed, with a neck line in, I cycled seven minutes for the seven days since the transplant in honour of John, my hero. I vowed to keep doing so.

I have his name in my helmet and every time I’m on my bike I think about him. When I’m tired I ask him for a bit extra and it spurs me on.”

The charity cycleathon has been organised in honour of Kevin’s donor, John, and also for Kevin’s friend, Jonathan Osborne (Jon), who had a lung transplant at the Freeman Hospital, but sadly died last year. Jon’s wife Emma and Kevin have set up the charity The Transplant Association, with the hope of raising awareness of organ donation, to provide a website as an information resource for those affected by transplant, as well as funds for training nurses in psychological care.

Others doing the full ride are Jon’s family and friends including his15 year old son, Joe; double lung transplant, Richard Caulkin; Kenny, husband of Chester-le-St heart transplant patient, Louise McLellan, and  Kevin’s Bristol Cardiologist Dr Graham Stuart, who will be doing the ride with his wife on a Tandem bicycle!

Joining Kevin for the last leg of the journey from  Boroughbridge is double-lung transplantee, Vicky Pettersen (and husband Eric). Vicky who is team manager for the Freeman Heart and Lung Transplant Association at The British Transplant Games, will be accompanied by local Freeman heart transplant patients Alex Bell, Mick Bradshaw and Wendy Lingham.

Others will join the cyclists at The Angel of the North, including 11-year-old Rachel Hooley, who also had a heart transplant in 2012 and will be competing at the Transplant Games for the Freeman hospital’s children’s team.

Thanks to 3663 Bidvest, who are supporting the Transplant Games, cupcakes and drinks will be provided on arrival.

The Westfield Health British Transplant Games NewcastleGateshead 2015 is one of the largest annual multi-sports events in the United Kingdom. The Games will be hosted across NewcastleGateshead 30 July-02 August 2015. The British Transplant Games are organised by the charity Transplant Sport. The four day event celebrates the many incredible achievements of transplant athletes, and highlights not just the benefits of transplantation, but the desperate need for organ donors in the North East and across the UK.

Every 10 minutes, somebody’s name gets added to the donor waiting list whilst three people die every day because they can’t get the organ they need. In the North East alone there are currently more than 300 people waiting for transplants. To join the NHS Organ Donor Register and help save lives TEXT: SAVE to 62323, call 0300 123 2323 or visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.

To find out more about TeamMash and their Bristol to Newcastle cycle ride, and the Transplant Association, please visit www.team-mash.co.uk.

To find out more about the Westfield Health British Transplant Games 2015 please

visit www.britishtransplantgames.co.uk, ‘like’ The British Transplant Games on

Facebook, or follow @WHBTG on Twitter.