A YORK mum who was given weeks to live before she had a heart transplant is taking part in a remarkable 40 mile bike ride alongside a team of people whose lives have been saved by transplants. Kate Liptrot reports.

THREE years ago York mum Wendy Lingham was given only weeks to live and had even started to plan her own funeral.

The 35-year-old from Clifton prepared for the worst when doctors said they had 12 weeks to find a suitable heart donor, after hers began to fail due to a devastating condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

She had to make plans for her son, Joshua, now 11, and was saying her goodbyes to her family, before a suitable heart was suddenly found and the transplant carried out.

Wendy has made such an incredible recovery she will be taking part in the Heart of York Bike Ride for the third time in September - but this time as part of a team with a difference.

She will captain Team Freeman, a team of five people, four of whom have undergone life-saving organ transplants.

The team is motivated by the chance to raise funds for heart failure research and to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.

It is an incredible achievement which would never have previously seemed possible to Wendy and her family.

Wendy discovered she had cardiomyopathy in 2002, four days after giving birth to her son Joshua, when her heart wasn’t pumping blood around her body properly, causing symptoms of heart failure including extreme breathlessness.

She was treated with medication, but developed heart rhythm problems, and was in and out of hospital. The disease eventually took its toll and in 2009 she ended up on life support after suffering a cardiac arrest.

She recovered, but gradually her health deteriorated until she was “practically bed-bound” and needed help from family and friends to look after her son.

“It was hard on Joshua," Wendy said, "He’d always known me being ill. I couldn’t take him out like other mums do with their children.”

In 2011, at the age 32, her situation became so desperate Wendy was eventually assessed for a heart transplant.

She was given just weeks to live, placed on the emergency list and received her transplant.

The night before the operation she said her goodbyes to her best friend, mother, sister and son because she didn't know if she would wake up again. She spent two months in intensive care.

Remembering that time three years ago, Wendy , a senior care assistant, said: “I can pin point the start of my recovery to the day I registered for the very first Heart of York Bike Ride (HoY) in 2012, I trained as much as I possibly could do take part in the 22 mile in 2012 and then the 40 mile route the year after.

"It was a great achievement to accomplish both rides as I was seriously ill prior to that, to the point I struggled to get out of bed and was pushed around in a wheel chair. I had lost the use of my muscles because of being in Intensive Care for so long so I had to learn how to walk again.

"It was a daunting challenge to take part in the ride but with determination and a love of a life and to be able to raise funds for such a worthy cause that has helped me so much in the past, I accomplished it. I now have a completely new lease of life.”

Team Freeman is made up of sisters Wendy Lingham and Rachael Genders of York; Vicky Pettersen of Redcar, who had a double lung transplant and her husband Erik, cystic fibrosis sufferer; Simon Ripley of Darlington, a heart transplant recipient; Paul Woodward, of Leeds, a cycctic fibrosis sufferer and Richard Caulkin of Castleford, a double lung transplant recipient.

Vicky said: “We are all looking forward to taking part in the Heart of York Bike Ride, and we’re hoping companies and clubs across join us by entering teams into this fun event organized by local volunteers. In completing the ride, we wish to honour the memories of not just our individual donors, but of all transplant donors. We also hope to inspire others to join the donor register and share their wishes with their family.”

- The Heart of York Bike Ride takes place on Sunday, September 7, and is organized by the BHF York Fundraising Committee in partnership with York St John University, the City of York Council, and Just 30.

It offers cyclists aged 14 and over the choice of a 22 mile or 40 mile on-road route through some of North Yorkshire’s finest countryside and moorland. Both routes start from the York St John sports fields on Haxby Road. Cycle Street (York), will be on hand to provide maintenance support throughout the bike ride.

Individual cyclists and team of five can register now at www.bhf.org.uk/heartofyork

The event is raising money for the Mending Broken Hearts appeal to fund pioneering heart failure research. To find out more about the appeal visit www.bhf.org.uk/findthecure

To sponsor Team Freeman visit www.justgiving.com/Team-Freeman.

To become a Heart of York Event Volunteer please contact Sharon Oakley, BHF Fundraising Manager for York, on 01904 270 776 or email oakleys@bhf.org.uk.