A NORTH-EAST heart transplant survivor has competed in a karting endurance event to promote the importance of organ donation.

Simon Ripley, of Darlington, underwent a life-saving heart transplant at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital in 2008 when he was 24.

He received the heart of an 18-year-old, known to him only as David, from the Leeds area, and he has gone on to champion the cause of organ donation.

Since having the transplant, Simon has regularly made the headlines because of his sporting achievements. He is a triple gold medallist in the British Transplant Games, and the current European champion in both the 20k cycling and duathlon events.

He has also competed in the World Transplant Games in 2013 and 2019, winning a silver and two bronze medals.

Simon has now taken part in a two-hour, 111-lap race at the Teesside Karting circuit, on the outskirts of Middlesbrough, as part of a three-man team representing The Freeman Heart and Lung Transplant Association.

“It was very physically demanding, but it’s just another way for me to show that it’s possible to live a full and active life after having a transplant,” he said.

The event, which took place during Organ Donation Week, was organised by highly successful North Yorkshire racing car driver, Max Coates, who is sponsored by Teesside Karting.

Thirty-six karts took part, split between professional, amateur, and corporate teams.

Simon’s team-mates were friends Bret Upex and Ian “Bizz” Phillips, a star of British drift racing. The trio finished a gallant second in the amateur race.

Max said: “It was fantastic to have Simon taking part in the race because he’s a real inspiration after everything he’s been through. He’s a big fan of touring car racing, so it was great to link up and have some fun on the track.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Simon had been training for the 2020 European Heart and Lung Transplant Games, scheduled to take place in the Spanish city of Bilboa on June 7.

He will now be focusing on defending his titles at the European games in Belgium in 2022.

“I might bow out of my main event of cycling at those games, but I’m on 49 medals so I’d love to make it 50 so I can retire happy,” he said. “In the meantime, I’ll always carry on promoting the importance of being an organ donor.”

  • To find out more about organ donation, go to: www.organdonation.nhs.uk