Trail of two hearts: Heart transplant patient walks British coastline for British Heart Foundation

Kieran Sandwell, 45, from Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire patient is undertaking a 5,000-mile trek around Britain to help raise £100,000 for the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) life saving research.

Kieran is taking on the incredible challenge, called “Trail of Two Hearts”, to mark the end of his long battle with heart disease after having a heart transplant eight years ago.

After setting off on Wednesday 1st February from the British Heart Foundation office in London, Kieran’s incredible journey now sees him walking the coast of Tyne and Wear.

Today at mile 650 of 5000 (or day 47 / 326) a much more beardy Kieran popped by the Berghaus office in Sunderland for a tour of the building and to say hello to the team.

Kieran Sandwell takes the weight off his feet in the reception area at Berghaus

We have supported Kieran by providing the outdoor clothing needed to take on such a challenge. As the Trail of Two Hearts began in February this challenge has seen Kieran face all the elements imaginable from the British coast line. Rain, snow, wind and of course most recently battling through Storm Doris.

L-R: Berghaus brand president Richard Leedham, Kieran Sandwell and Nikki Bell of the British Heart Foundation

We caught up with Kieran to discuss some of the most memorable moments of the challenge so far.

What has been your most enjoyable moment so far?

My most enjoyable moment was on the coastline between Happisburgh and Cromer. There were times where there was 7 people following me and helping to spur me on. In a way it was a lot like the scene in Forest Gump.

I think they found out about my challenge on Twitter (@kieransandwell) and came out to support me, it was great and really spurred me on. What I didn’t know is that they had continued to use Twitter whilst on the walk and when I got to Cromer the Mayor was there to greet me.

Another enjoyable moment – in hindsight – was Storm Doris. I’m never going to forget that day.

What has been the hardest part of the journey so far?

Storm Doris has been the hardest part for sure. 18 miles with the wind blowing head on.

It happened between Hunstanton and King’s Lynn. I was walking along the coast and with sand constantly being blown in my face at such force.

I really appreciated the neck gaiter at this point – I had it pulled right up over my nose using it alongside my hood so just my eyes were showing – still I was struggling to keep my eyes open because of the wind rain and sand being blown in to my face.

I moved from the coastal route to a higher ground – this avoided the sand but the wind was so much stronger.

Definitely the hardest part of my journey – but also something I will never forget and when I look back there is a certain pleasure I get from the memories.

Was that the most memorable part so far?

Storm Doris was the most memorable in one way.

However all around the East Anglia coast is really going to stick in my memory. Having been there many times before, in fitness, in ill-health and post-transplant so it’s a memorable place for me.

When times get hard I’m always thinking back and just the fact I can partake in this challenge – I think it’s amazing.

What’s in store for the journey ahead?

Well, I guess there’s the Northumberland coast and then there’s Scotland. I try not to think of the challenge as a whole – I take it one day at a time.

I think I will take a rest day in Edinburgh to enable me to get sorted for the rest of the Scottish coast. I’m aware that there are many nights where I am going to have to camp overnight – and I’ve never been camping before! So that’s going to be new to me…

… but to be honest I have never done anything like this challenge before either!

There are some long days and of course most often I am by myself. I get through these days by singing to myself… and animals. I shouldn’t say this because I’ll sound like a crazy person… But yeah going up hills when I am exhausted and taking them on by chanting “I love hills, I love hills” to myself.

(As an editor’s note: Kieran also showed us a video of himself singing Wham’s ‘Wake me up before you go-go’ to a horse)

Here’s how we all can help!

Kieran is calling on the public to support him on his journey by helping him raise £100,000 for the BHF’s life saving research, and bringing new hope to the seven million people like him living with heart and circulatory disease in the UK.

You can sponsor Kieran by visiting www.atrailoftwohearts.com

Speaking ahead of his challenge, Kieran said: “The inspiration for my challenge came to me around 25 years ago, but then I would never have been able to complete such an endurance challenge.

“It’s only thanks to my donor, the BHF, the Brompton and Papworth Hospital and NHS Blood & Transplant that I am able to make my dream a reality.

“My second heart has enabled me to do so much and I’m urging the public to help me support the BHF’s ground-breaking research by making a donation.”

Kieran’s battle with heart disease began when he was just three years old, when he had to have open heart surgery to correct a condition called transposition of the great arteries (TGA) where the main arteries in the heart are ‘plumbed’ back to front.

Then when Kieran was 13 he suffered a heart attack and during his early twenties he also suffered two mini strokes and began having abnormal heart rhythms. By the time he reached 35, he was in heart failure and he was put on the transplant list for a new heart.

In July 2009, Kieran received his new heart and donated his old heart for BHF-funded research into congenital heart disease which has contributed to important findings and helped others living with conditions like his. Now the money he raises on this incredible journey around Britain will help fund even more life saving research.

Nikki Bell BHF Fundraising Manager for Tyne and Wear, said: “We never cease to be amazed by the incredible way our fundraisers raise money for our research, but Kieran’s coastline challenge is one of the biggest we’ve ever seen.

“We are so incredibly grateful for his determination and dedication to supporting our work and we’ll be supporting him every step of the way!

“Every three minutes someone in the UK loses their life to heart and circulatory disease, which devastates the lives of those they leave behind. We urgently need more people to join our fight for every heartbeat and help fund our life saving research, so if Kieran has inspired you please do help power his steps and donate!”

All that is left now is to say – Good luck Kieran! We will keep updated by following you on Twitter and Facebook.