A dad whose life was saved by a heart transplant from a keen cyclist woke to find he had a passion for the hobby – after never doing it before.
Kevin Mashford, 38, was given weeks to live and was even read his last rites at one point as he battled a congenital heart disease.
The businessman did not realise how serious his illness was until medics told him he had kidney failure, lung failure and heart failure and his days were numbered.
He was put straight on to the emergency transplant list and underwent a successful heart transplant last May.
Doctors told Kevin his new heart came from a man named John who was an avid cyclist who had died in a collision with a car while out riding.
Just seven days after his 13-hour operation Kevin asked physiotherapists to bring an exercise bike into his room and cycled seven minutes every day for a week.
And despite never having cycled before he took to the saddle as soon as he left hospital and is now regularly clocking up the miles – with John’s name etched inside his helmet.
He is now gearing up for a challenging 342-mile ride from his home near Bristol to Newcastle where he had the life-saving transplant to raise money in John’s memory.
Kevin – whose wife Jo, 38, is now expecting their third child – said: “Before my transplant I had never really cycled.
“But when I found out that my donor had died in a cycling accident I was determined to do it in his memory.
“I have ‘RIP John’ written in my cycling helmet so he’s with me whenever I’m on the bike.
“I only know his first name, John, and when I’m tired I ask him for a bit extra and it spurs me on.”
Kevin – dad to sons Liam, six, and Josh, nine – was born with Congenitally Corrected Transposition of the Greater Arteries (CCTGA) with Pulmonary Stenosis and VSD.
He underwent several serious operations, had three pacemakers fitted and suffered a stroke and was read his last rites at one point.
However, he went on to recover and lived as normal a life as possible and even set up his own design and project management business.
But his condition deteriorated and in January last year was admitted to the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle and placed on the donor register where he awaited a new heart.
As soon as he was told about John he said he knew everything was going to be fine.
He said: “I was keen to find out a bit about my donor. Seven days after my transplant I was told that his first name was John and that he had died in a cycling accident.
“The moment I woke up I felt stronger. I asked my physio to bring in an exercise bike and I cycled seven minutes a day for the next seven days in memory of my donor.
“My heart wanted to go and go but my legs found it hard to keep up. I had never used my legs before for exercise and it was hard work at first.
“Nineteen weeks later I completed a 30 mile charity cycle in his memory. A year later I rode 54 miles from London to Brighton.”
Kevin, from Backwell, North Somerset, said he owes everything to John.
“I realised another family have done this for me – another family have enabled my family to carry on.
“I wrote a card and Jo and the kids wrote a card telling them how grateful we were. I got a letter back from his mum which I cherish.
“Thanks to him signing on the organ donor list I have a new life, a really active life, and there is a new life on the way as my wife is pregnant.
“I have a sense of responsibility to my donor and his family and I’m never going to waste it. It’s always going to be used positively.”
Kevin is setting off on his four-day ride to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle on July 17 to raise funds for his new charity, The Transplant Association.
He hopes the publicity will encourage people to sign on the organ donor list as they cycle across the country.
He said: “My primary goal is to get as many people as possible along our path to sign up to the organ donor’s list.
“At some point my donor had made a conscious effort to sign up to the organ register and as a result I am able to keep enjoying my life as well as bring a new one.”
To sponsor Keith visit his website: www.team-mash.co.uk