James pedalling his way forward for The Alfred
It was an immediate call to action for James Sheppard. It was something that he knew he had to do and that it wasn’t going to be easy.
But compared to what he had already faced and overcome, James felt it was the least he could he try – and he wanted to bring everyone else along for the ride with him.
Gearing up to raise money for The Alfred was the simplest decision he had to make.
James received a heart transplant while at The Alfred in 2018 after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. After a torturous five-year journey which started with an irregular heartbeat, it was finally at an end.
Waking up after the transplant, he immediately felt different.
“For so long, I’ve had this irregular heartbeat and I could physically feel that all the time,” James said. “I’d forgotten that it wasn’t normal to be able to feel your heart physically working all the time, so waking up to know it’s just in there and know that it’s working was incredible. This is how it’s meant to be.”
There was no mucking around for James after the surgery – he was back in the gym on an exercise bike on day 11 post-surgery. Near the end of his three-month rehabilitation, he was told he needed to maintain his health and fitness so it was important he found something he could commit to. He decided to give cycling a go.
Remarkably, just five months after his transplant, James took part in a 20km cycling event.
The next year, he competed in the World Transplant Games in Newcastle, England.
“I owe so much to the hospital with everything that I went through,” he said. “The care at The Alfred was second to none and, without them, especially the heart transplant clinic and the cardiac team, it’s not an exaggeration that I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
With a focus on raising money for cardiac care at The Alfred, the 35-year-old thought it was “a really good opportunity” to put himself out there and do something to give back. He decided he would commit to riding 1000km during September and raise some funds for The Alfred at the same time.
“Riding 1000km, that’s bloody hard, and it is to show what incredible outcomes are achieved by the amazing work that the team at The Alfred do,” James said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here and I want to do what I can to help them get their fundraising goals to do the redevelopment and support the hospital.”
But even he was not expecting the incredible response he has received since starting it on September 1.
“The response has been incredible,” James said. “It’s a hard time at the moment, so I wasn’t sure if people would have the spare change to donate.
“But I raised $1000 within the first 12 hours, which was ridiculous. Day nine of the 30-day fundraising effort we cracked the $5000 mark, so we are currently pushing for $7000 and hopefully even get to $10,000.”
While it has been mainly friends, family and colleagues past and present who have donated, others have also made an impact.
“There’s even a few people I did a Contiki tour with 12 years ago who have jumped on and donated $100,” he said. “It’s those ones that you don’t see coming that shows how important what I am doing is and that people do care.”
For information, or to donate, visit fundraising.alfredfoundation.org.au/james-sheppard