Monday, April 19, 2010

Dr. Heather Ross and heart transplant recipient Dale Shippam reach the North Pole

This is a story about a heart transplant recipient who at the age of 58 can climb mountains and ski to the north pole. I am privileged to know Dale Shippam and have met Dr. Ross several times. They are an inspiration to all of us in the transplant community and a wonderful example of how lives can be transformed by an organ transplant. This is Donate Life Month in the U.S. and Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness Week in Ontario and we are reminded that by donating our organs and tissues we are not only saving lives but giving the recipients a chance to live exceptional lives by testing their limits and achieving dreams they could only previously wish for .

Read Dr. Ross' blog at: where she gives a day-by-day account of the adventure with photos. Also read her previous posts about a trip with Dale and others to Nepal and the Himalayas in 2008 to climb Mera Peak. Also, visit Dr. Ross' web page. Dr. Ross is to be congratulated for her dedication to her patients and the inspiration and motivation she instills in them to raise the bar and live life to the fullest.

Dr. Heather Ross, director of the heart transplant program at Toronto General Hospital, hugs heart transplant recipient Dale Shippam, a 58-year-old firefighter from Thunder Bay, Ontario. The five-member team reached the North Pole after 11 days of skiing over ice , snow drifts, across open water and through fierce winds to raise awareness about organ donation and to show everyone that transplant patients can lead healthy and active lives.

Newswise — They made it! In what is believed to be a world-first, a heart transplant patient along with his transplant doctor skied over 100 miles, over ice, snow drifts, across open water, through gale-force winds and freezing temperatures to make it to the North Pole early Thursday morning.

The intrepid pair, along with three other adventurous souls, took 11 days to reach the northernmost point of the globe. The pair set out on this journey to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation, and to show everyone that transplant patients can lead healthy lives and contribute to society.

In her daily blog, Dr. Heather Ross, director of the heart transplant program at Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, describes what it was like to wait out a storm, stuck on the ice, so they could finish their trek.

“ …For me, the unknown was a touch terrifying. It made me realize how incredibly small and vulnerable we were in a 6 x 8 foot tent, -20 wind chill to nearly -40, with winds greater than 25 miles per hour. Dale reminded both Michel and I that this is what it feels like day in, day out, for someone waiting for a transplant. No control over events, vulnerable, waiting – it put a whole new perspective on things. My admiration and respect for transplant recipients and those waiting continues to grow,” writes Dr. Ross.

Dr. Ross and heart transplant patient Dale Shippam, a 58-year-old firefighter from Thunder Bay, were part of a campaign called Test Your Limits, which so far has raised more than $300,000 for heart disease research. Dale received a heart transplant in 1999 after his heart was damaged by a viral infection. For further details, please go to:

The team was made up of five members: Dale, Dr. Ross, two guides and Dr. Michael White, director of the heart failure research program at the Montreal Heart Institute. On April 4, the team reached the Russian ice station Borneo. From there a helicopter flew them to their starting point where “all if a sudden, we were completely alone…..felt like I was on the moon.”.

From her blog, Dr. Ross writes that, “Now we are at 89 degrees 4.1 minutes - so we skied for three hours and covered only four miles - over typical terrain. Gives you an idea what we have to do to cover 60 miles to pole, let alone drift and obstacles, open water.....wind howling as we set camp…”

During the trip, Dr. Ross writes about how well Dale held up under the stresses of such a difficult journey. “Dale, as always, never creases to amaze me with what he is capable of. Eleven years post-transplant, pulling his weight (with 36kg of gear(about 80 pounds), one step after another pushing the boundaries and representing transplant in the best possible way.”

About Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network

Toronto General Hospital is a partner in the University Health Network, along with the Toronto Western Hospital and the Princess Margaret Hospital. These teaching hospitals are affiliated with the University of Toronto. Toronto General Hospital is a national and international source for research, education and patient care, and is recognized internationally for its innovations in transplantation, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, diabetes and genomic medicine. The multiorgan transplant program is the largest in Canada, performing about 450 transplants a year. It is renowned worldwide for its innovation and comprehensiveness in treating patients with severe and complex end-stage organ diseases.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.

1 comment:

los angeles rhinoplasty said...

Must donate our organs when we can...there are so many inspiring stories of transplant that makes us so happy.About t6he fact that the medical technology is improving day by day.