A Fairlie man is very much living in the moment after having to overcome a heart transplant to win some major honours in cycling in Scotland, and on the international scene.
The amateur cyclist achieved a brilliant bronze medal in the Time Trials and the Road Race in the British Transplant Games in North Lanarkshire last weekend, just a matter of weeks after achieving success in the World Transplant Games in Malaga, where he was the fastest heart transplant patient in both the time trial and road race.
Steve Donaldson contracted a virus which weakened his heart muscle in 1981 which, he thought, had killed off his competitive cycling career. In 2010, things had got progressively worse and he required a heart transplant.
The former IBM worker could hardly walk two metres let alone even dream of taking part in cycling challenges once again.
However, Steve slowly managed to re-gain his confidence on the saddle, and joined the Fullarton Wheelers cycling group in Irvine.
As a promising teen cyclist, Steve was a member of Glasgow United Cycling Club, and had even beaten Robert Millar, Britain’s most successful road cyclist prior to Bradley Wiggins.
His professional cycling future looked bright.
Steve said: “I was only 18 when I contracted the virus and it killed my cycling career. I honestly never imagined that I could be back in a position to win cycling honours. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my donor.”
“Things deteriorated around 2010 and I was told I needed a heart transplant. The virus had affected my heart muscle which had suffered damage.
“A transplant isn’t a cure - it is a semi-fix. It is a better set of problems. You have a choice of death or transplant . I still have various issues and have to take medication your day. Your immune system is wiped out, and you don’t want your body to reject the organ it has been transplanted with. It is now a better set of problems, and has given me a better quality of life.
And Steve was left heartbroken two years ago after his wife Linda passed away due to breast cancer. Cycling has given Steve a new appreciation to live life to the fullest: “We always promised to live life to the full every day and I intend to carry on her wishes.
“I never thought I would get back on a saddle,” the 55 year old admitted,”and now I am doing things I used to dream about. Friends in the Fullarton Wheelers tell me that I am living the dream. I am now doing the dream, and grabbing life with both hands and getting on with it.
“It is a fantastic gift that I have been given, and my biggest hero is my donor. I don’t know who it is but that is my hero. If you want to be a donor, please sign up to the donor register.”
Steve is originally from Glasgow, and has lived in Bishopton before moving to Fairlie in 2007, working as a PC computer test engineer.
Representing the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Steve has more cycling challenges on the horizon with the European Transplant Championships in Italy, and the British Championships in Italy, followed by the next World Transplant Championships in Newcastle in 2019.
Steve in still in a state of disbelief about his achievements, and said: “To be the fastest heart transplant patient in both the time trial and road race in the World Transplant Games is bloody marvellous!
“I think it shows that anything is possible. I didn’t think I would ever get back on a bike again, and I could barely walk a short distance. To have been cardiac rehab to now doing this is unbelievable.”