Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:00

Heart transplant recipient to ski south pole glaciers with Polar Explorers

Dale Shippam (right) with Dr. Heather Ross at Mount Vinson in Antarctica in 2006. Supplied (Supplied) Dale Shippam (right) with Dr. Heather Ross at Mount Vinson in Antarctica in 2006. Supplied (Supplied)

By CBC News

CBC NewsA Thunder Bay man and heart transplant recipient will soon embark on a journey to the South Pole to raise awareness about organ donation. Dale Shippam leaves for Antarctica at the end of this month and will be part of a team doing a gruelling one-week trek on skis.

"You're on just a glacier, a piece of the polar cap, and we're skiing on 8,000 feet of ice there," he said.

"So that means we're at 9,300 feet-plus, so there's a little bit of an altitude issue. It's very hard work."

This will be Shippam's fourth journey promoting organ donation after taking on the highest mountain in Antarctica in 2006, a mountain near Everest in Nepal in 2008, and the North Pole in 2010.

The 'last degree'

He will be joined by three cardiologists — two from Montreal and one from Toronto — and will ski the "last degree," which is the last 100 kilometers to the South Pole.

"It's a big adventure to fly from here to literally the bottom of the world," Shippam said.

"So it's pretty exciting to get down there and to do a trip like this."

He's been preparing for the trip by dragging an old car tire around to simulate the heavy sleds they'll be dragging — and he's been working out a lot, Shippam said.

He will be packing lots of warm gear.

"The tents have to be strong tents because the winds, Antarctica is famous for their winds," Shippam said.

"You can get 40 mile-an-hour winds there, [which is] quite common."

Encouraging discussion

He will fly out of Thunder Bay Dec. 30 and fly to Antarctica on Jan. 4. The team expects to start skiing on Jan. 5 or 6 and hopes to be finished by the Jan. 17.

"I think people see a heart transplant patient skiing to the South Pole and it brings up the discussion about organ donation," Shippam said about the purpose of his trip.
Although many people are in favour of organ donation, not that many of them actually sign up for the registry, he said.

Shippam routinely encourages people to sign their donation cards points people to to join the organ donation registry.

For more about Shippam's trek, click on to visit the project's website.


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