Final Post! We Stood at The North Pole – and Drank Champagne!!!!

What a ride – at 9:21 am Dale Shippam stood at the North Pole. Who would
have thought that that would happen!!

But let me go back over the past 60 hours – We had finished up Day 9, a briliant day, but as we came into camp a storm blew in. We had intended to get up the next day and ski but the storm was unbelievable. We stayed in the tent while it blew, shook, rattled and rolled and the ground intermittently trembled.

At our usual 8 pm check in phone call – we heard from Vadim (The Russian organizer of all things Barneo, flights, choppers etc.,) that the weather was bad, closing in and we should conserve fuel. We had 2.5L at that time. Planning an 11 day trip and being told that you may be stuck on the ice for a few more days waiting for the weather to change was really actually very scary. We had a look at the food and fuel and immediately went into conservation mode. Keith and Dirk were all over it, but for me the unknown was a touch terrifying. It made me realize how incredibly small and vulnerable we were in a 6 x 8 foot tent, -20, windchill to nearly – 40, and winds > 25 mph.

Dale, reminded both Michel and I that this is what it feels like day in, day out, for someone waiting for a transplant. No control over events, vulnerable, waiting – it put a whole new perspective on things. My admiration and respect for transplant recipients and those waiting continues to grow. What we experienced was only a small fraction of what they go through day in, day out while they wait – I really can’t imagine it.

Day 10 we used no fuel during the day, tucked in, staying warm. Used minimal fuel in the evening.

Day 11 no flights, so again minimal fuel – sorting out food so we could ration what would be required if we had to hunker down for longer. Finding out that the runway at Borneo had cracked and developed a huge lead of open water…..Many calls over the course of Day 11, every 2 hours are we going – Vadim – no weather closing in; 8 am, 10 am, 12, 2 pm, 8pm, and finally 10 pm – no flights. Bad night sleep last night again wondering, worrying, waiting – at 8 am we got the call the chopper was coming for us. It took us the remaining way to The North Pole and at 921 Dale became the first heart transplant recipient to our knowledge to stand at TNP. What a feeling – impossible to describe!!!!

Ultimately we had done a Polar Century – 100 miles of skiing, over ice, snow drifts, across open water, through gale force winds, freezing temperatures and ended up within 12 miles of the Pole, but for the weather we would have made it on our own steam, nonetheless, I believe it was a stunning accomplishment for Dale. Especially after Keith said it is the worst weather he has ever seen on a Polar ski!

We then flew back to Barneo and immediately on to the Antonov 74 plane to fly back to Longyearbyen.

The team was extraordinary. Imagine spending 60 hours in a 6×8 foot space with 5 people and keeping your sense of humor and in fact actually enjoying yourself (apart from intermittent panic about departure). Keith is a cross between Grizzly Adams and a Polar Bear – setting the pace, keeping the focus, finding the path. Dirk was the sweeper – steadfast, solid with a brilliant sense of humor and pulling up the rear, picking us up, pushing our sleds through tight spaces. Dale as always never ceases to amaze me with what he is capable of. 11 years post transplant, pulling his weight, one step after another pushing the boundaries and representing transplant in the best possible way. Michel – endless energy, bouncing in and out of the tent during our 60 hour downtime, keeping things light and positive.

I must thank a number of people – Mr. Ian Delaney whose ongoing support of the program has allowed us to raise awareness on a global scale through innovative means such as this trip – Thanks Ian – we missed you out there.

The team at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and MultiOrgan Transplant Program for the dedication they show 24/7 to their work that allow the Dale’s of the world to live a full life.

To my patients you motivate me daily! Keep your spirits up and believe.

Nicole, Nona, Bill (UHN), and Kevin (Sherritt) deserve special thanks for allowing the Blog to happen.

Thanks to the Borg family, B. Gosevitz and T. Lasorda for all the help with fundraising.

Special thanks to Linda Goldsack- you rock girl.

Special thanks to TGLN for all of their support and effort to increase organ and tissue donation.

Thanks to Peter at Hofman Motors for the brilliant tire that I pulled throughout the City of Toronto, I can give it back but I am pretty sure you don’t want it!

We are safe in Longyearbyen (wouldn’t you know it that a Volcano would erupt in Iceland and delay us further) – all in all another magical spiritual experience that has left me speechless

Thanks to everyone for following our story!

Heather Ross

24 Replies to “Final Post! We Stood at The North Pole – and Drank Champagne!!!!”

  1. CONGRATULATIONS DR. Ross, Mr. Shippam and the team! That is incredible! Amazing news to see you've made it past all of the obstacles!

    I can't imagine what that must have been like – a truly amazing feat that will continue to motivate and inspire!! Have a safe trip back!

    Mena

  2. Heather and Dale (and the rest of the NP team too!)…. just read the last blog…. have tears in our eyes….sooooo glad you are all safe!
    See you in CHICAGO!

    PITH team

  3. CONGRATULATIONS !!! You are all an inspiration — it's a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day in Toronto and yet I'm wearing my Polar Expeditions parka as I type this in your honour. You all ROCK ! Kelly Monaghan

  4. Fantastic! Congratulations to all. That is quite an accomplishment. This is a new landmark for transplant patients. INSPIRING! Felicitations Michel!
    Stephan

  5. CONGRATULATIONS! So proud of all of you. So happy that you're on your way home…well at least trying to get home…maybe you should write another blog on just trying to get home…;) At least your safe and indoors – STAY THAT WAY! Only Lord knows whats stirring up in your mind cause you can't seem to just sit still HR. ;P See you soon.

    AG

  6. FANTASTIC! CONGRATULATIONS to the entire team. I am so thrilled to read you made it and you are now safe and warm. Hope the big volcano cloud won't dampen your spirit. Safe travels back home … Toronto and Spring awaits you.

  7. Congratulations, Heather & Team! You finally made it! We're jumping for joy at home – we've followed you every single day of your trek and frankly, we're glad we don't have to check out the blog with nervous anticipation anymore! Enjoy the victory and the knowledge that you have undoubtedly made a big difference in how the rest of the world perceives organ transplant. Surely Ron is up there doing a happy dance, right along with you! 🙂 xoxo

  8. Congratulations to everyone. Heath, we are looking forward to hearing first hand over some good food and fine wine. See you in Chicago.

    D&C xo

  9. There's thundrous cheer coming from the hearts of the entire transplant community. We are truly inspired by your dedication and perseverence to raise awareness that transplants save lives enabling you to achieve your dreams no matter the obstacles. Congratulations to the entire team. Mission accomplished! Have a safe journey home.
    Jurate and Tom

  10. OH HEATHER AMAZING GRACE TO YOU MY LOVE AND TO ALL THE OTHERS JOB WELL DONE TO BE AT THE VERY TOP WHAT AN HONOUR AND SO MUCH STRENGTH AND BELIEVING IN YOURSELVES TO GET THERE DID WE DOUBT YOU???? NEVER!!!!!!
    THANK GOD FOR ALL OF YOU WORKING WITH US AND BLESSINGS TO ALL OF OUR DONOR FAMILIES ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS!!!!!!

    KUDOS TO YOU DALE BUMP BUMP AND YOUR BEAT GOES ON OUR LOVE AND HAPPINESS IN YOUR SAFETY MARGARET AND ERIC DID YOU EVER SEE SABTA????????

  11. Hello Heather and team….
    So proud of all of you….
    See you when you are back..
    Salutions from California…
    Ciao bella
    Lina .

  12. Congrats to all. AMAZING achievement. We've followed you all the way. Heather, see you back at TGH soon….it's an honour to work with you, Safe trip home all.
    Jan N and family

  13. Congratulations on a huge accomplishment. I worried about all of you all the way and prayed you would continue to be safe and achieve this incredible goal. Thank you all for allowing us to be a part of your adventure.

  14. Wow!

    Many congratulations to each member of the team for your vision, courage, perseverance and stamina – in not only testing yourselves but challenging the rest of us to do the same in our own contexts.

    Wishing you peace, rest and warmth as you make your way home. Continued safe travels.

    Eileen

  15. Awesome!!!!
    Lucky to have Dr. Ross and Dale as our role models and inspiration to keep achieving.

    Diane

  16. At home your garden is in bloom and I look forward to seeing you safe and sound. Much love and congratulations on another amazing accomplishment.

    xox
    Alexa

  17. WOW!!! What else can we say. WOW!
    You were never alone on this Jouney, we were always there with you.
    At the end of May I'm doing a 5K walk. It's a small step in comparision, but my heart is only 6 months old. I wouldn't be able to do it, if it wasn't for Dr. Ross and the whole team.
    God Bless, and welcome back
    Mike Steele

  18. Congratulations to you Heather and the whole team on a remarkable and inspiring achievement! We've followed your progress and shared vicariously in your excitement and occasional anxiety. We are thrilled by your accomplishment and that you are all safe and sound. We look forward to hearing about your adventures in person.
    With love from Lorna Grace, John, Martina and Erin

  19. Heather (and Team). A big congratulations ! A great achievement and inspiration. Hope the volcano doesn't delay your trip back too much. See you in Chicago Heather.

    Drummer Tom

Comments are closed.