mountain ascents with a new heart – janey mcgill


‘only from the heart can you touch the sky’ 


Graham climbed more than one mountain over the last couple of years. I was working in a sleepy little pub in Devon, washing pots and waitressing, all the while contemplating what to do with my life.  Graham, a friend of the Landlords, was down from Warwickshire for a busman’s holiday over the Christmas period.

The first time I spoke to him I knew there was more to this man than met the eye. My instinct told my curiosity I would have to exercise patience and sensitivity.  I was right. This softly spoken modest and composed chap had the heart of a stranger, a young man who had been killed in a car crash.

What was a tragedy for that lad and his family was a blessing for Graham and his. The old cliche, never more true, ‘one door closes and another door opens.’

On further gentle probing I unearthed that Graham suffered from a hereditary heart condition that claimed his father’s life.  He scaled, with a small team of heart and lung transplant survivors, a 5800m mountain in South America. Before his transplant he couldn’t climb a flight of stairs, he was the only climber on that occasion to reach the summit of the mountain.

Graham on the right summits

He achieved through sheer grit and determination something he never though he could do or that even crossed his mind.

Climb for My Donor

This admirable feat of endurance was for a campaign. Climb For My Donor, increasing awareness for organ transplants and raising money to purchase equipment that can extend the life of an organ from a maximum of 3 hours to 12.

Together we spent many hours over the Aga, mopping the floors or washing the pots and chatting about coming so close to death and how it changes your life and that of your loved ones.

It was a pleasure working with Graham for that month last year in 2015. I told him I would write this and now I finally have.