An Australian living in Dubai is preparing to climb two 6,096-metre peaks in the Himalayas even after two major heart operations.
Shadi Joweihan, 49, will travel to Nepal this week for a two-week expedition to Lobuche and Imja Tse, also known as Island Peak, which is the most popular mountain to climb in Nepal. A British team was the first to reach the summit in 1953.
Mr Joweihan, who has called Dubai home for 28 years, was diagnosed with a faulty heart valve in 2012.
He returned to Sydney for open heart surgery in 2014 and had a follow-up procedure two years later to allow him to maintain his active lifestyle.
Now fully recovered and about to turn 50, Mr Joweihan, abusiness development consultant, hopes his unassisted climbs will show normal life can resume after major heart surgery.
“I was going for my pilot's licence and a medical showed I had a heart murmur, which was not a big deal as a lot of people have one,” he said.
“But after regular check-ups I realised it was getting worse and my heart valve was collapsing.
“If left untreated, my heart would have failed, so there was an optimal time for me to have an operation.
“I want to show how you can still live strongly and have uninterrupted resilience, despite two open heart surgeries.”
He was fitted with a Carpentier-Edwards Physio II ring to treat mitral valve regurgitation, a disease in which the valve between the left heart chambers does not close completely, allowing blood to leak backwards.
The prosthetic is designed to accommodate the changing pathology in degenerative valve disease.
It allows doctors to match the exact measurements and characteristics of a patient’s mitral valve.
The insertion has helped Mr Joweihan, a father of one, to return to a full and active life.
“I see a lot of attention given to diabetes and cancer but not so much for heart health — getting regular checkups can buy you your life,” he said.
“There is also a stigma and I want to show you are as good as anyone else after a heart operation and do not be afraid of the outcome of a procedure.
“People see my scar and ask what I’m doing, they want to wrap me in cotton wool.”
The climb will be quieter as it will be conducted off-season for traditional mountaineering but it could be more dangerous with severe weather. Mr Joweihan said he will be assisted by a small team of experienced Sherpas.
An emergency helicopter will be on standby, should he have any adverse reaction to the altitude or extreme conditions in the region close to the Khumbu Glacier.
The two-week expedition began on Thursday, December 15.
According to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, cardiovascular disease contributes to 40 per cent of all deaths in the UAE and is a leading cause of mortality worldwide.
Some heart conditions have few symptoms, so can strike without warning.
“My doctors have been very supportive, as have my family,” said Mr Joweihan, who aims to raise the UAE flag at the summit.
“I want to challenge myself in minus 40°C conditions and winds of 70kph to really test myself.
“It is extreme for someone who has gone through double heart surgery.
“Hopefully, it will bring awareness of resilience and age, we can continue to embrace life as we get older.
"I know there is a risk but if you always avoid fear, you will never know what is behind the door.
“It is how you respond to adversity that matters.”