Chef 48 hours from death climbs volcano after heart transplant

Graham Reeve with colleagues at The Chopping Block
Graham Reeve with colleagues at The Chopping Block

A chef who was given just 48 hours to live before receiving a heart transplant is on top of the world after climbing one of the highest volcanoes in Ecuador.

Graham Reeve, who works at The Chopping Block catering company based at Flecknoe, near Rugby, achieved the remarkable feat of reaching the 5,800m summit in honour of his donor.

Lots of emotions ran through my head when I reached the top. I was overjoyed and said a prayer for my donor and for my father.

Graham Reeve

The 47-year-old, who lives in Staverton, twice clinically died after being diagnosed in 2008 with a hereditary heart condition that had already claimed the life of his father.

Following a second cardiac arrest, he was admitted to Harefield Hospital where he stayed for several months until the transplant in August 2012.

Graham was invited by Harefield Hospital to be part of a small expedition of heart and lung transplant patients to take on the challenge in South America to raise awareness of organ donation and funds to buy life-saving equipment.

The Climbing For My Donor team returned from their epic two-week adventure in July, which is thought to have been the highest ever climb by a group of transplant patients.

Graham said: “I couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs before my transplant and was given 48 hours to live before my donor came through.

“I had never done anything like this before but wanted to do it for my donor and for my father. My training started with cycling the two miles there and back to work each day and then we had an introductory climb in Glencoe, Scotland, which really opened my eyes.

“Getting to the top was an incredible challenge. We started at 10pm and didn’t get back until 12.30am the following day. There was freezing rain hitting us all the time but once we got above the clouds it was actually quite nice.

“Lots of emotions ran through my head when I reached the top. I was overjoyed and said a prayer for my donor and for my father.”

Graham is now back at work and continuing to help Climbing For My Donor raise funds to buy equipment that can extend the time a donor organ can be delivered to a recipient from a maximum of three to 12 hours.

He is embarking on another challenge by walking with his partner Jeanette to the highest points of the UK’s 91 historic counties.

He added: “I’ve had a lot of support from my workmates which has been really good. They weren’t surprised at me taking on the challenge but were surprised when I came back and told them I had managed to reach the top!”

Ben Jones, who runs The Chopping Block with his brother Gwil, said: “We are all hugely proud of Graham’s achievement.

“It’s amazing to think that he has gone from the brink of death to scaling heights usually taken on by experienced mountaineers.

“It’s been great to welcome him back to the kitchen and to hear about the experience, which we’re sure will go a long way towards helping more transplant patients like him.”

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