A determined Dubai adventurer who bounced back from two major heart operations has overcome adversity once again after battling freezing temperatures and high winds on an epic 5,000-metre mountain climb in the Himalayas.
Shadi Joweihan, 49, was forced to call in helicopter rescue as wind speeds reached more than 70kph in one of the coldest Nepalese winters in recent years.
The resilient Australian, who has called Dubai home for 28 years, fell agonisingly short of his goal of reaching the 6,119-metre summit of Lobuche East, in the Khumbu region.
But he accomplished his mission of showing people they can continue to live life to the full, even if they encounter setbacks along the way.
Mr Joweihan 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.
The two week expedition that left Dubai for the Himalayas on December 14 came to a premature end due to treacherous climbing conditions that forced many other experienced mountaineers to also abandon hopes of reaching the summit.
Mr Joweihan, who is due back in the UAE on a FlyDubai flight this week, said he was glad to be returning to his family in one piece.
“The team said it was the coldest year they have had for some time, with wind speeds at 70kph lifting our tents off the ground from where we were rescued from,” he said.
“We were supposed to come down but I had bad altitude sickness and it was getting dark quickly so we had to make camp.
“Our helicopter could not come into land to take us off so we have to use another specialist rescue company to get us to Lukla and the airport there.
“There were a lot of other experienced mountaineers who also failed to summit and were forced off due to the extreme weather.”
Because of his oxygen saturation levels dropping dangerously low, and his prior heart condition, the decision was made to abort the expedition and return home.
There was much to proud of, however, as the team displayed Australian and UAE flags at 5,400km above the ground. It is a higher point than the Mount Everest base camp, at 5,364 metres, as well as summits of Mont Blanc — 4,809 metres — and the Matterhorn in Switzerland, at 4,478 metres.
Climber aims to inspire others
Mr Joweihan hopes his story will encourage more people to get checked out for hidden heart conditions, and inspire recovering cardiac patients to lead a normal, active life post surgery.
“Because of my heart issues I was put on oxygen,” he said.
“I thought the worst would happen, and recorded a video for my little girl.
“The scary thing was it was very remote, we had a phone signal but not all the time. If a rescue helicopter couldn’t find us there was nothing they could do.
“The experience alone set new heights for me. I was experimenting with my body to see what is possible.
“There was a risk element, but it had to be a strong message to show what is possible.
“Hopefully it will encourage more people to get their hearts checked.
“I have gone through this and I am living my life. I have no regrets.”