PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Thirteen miles a day.
That’s the course for a man walking through our area until he makes it all the way to Washington, D.C.
And he’s doing it with a new heart.
Gene Shimandle from Cleveland received a heart transplant one year ago.
He had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
“I had six years of waiting with two artificial hearts and then got the call on May 6, 2017,” said Shimandle. “They said, ‘Gene, we think we found you a heart’ and what a blessed day that was.”
It was a nine hour surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, and he woke up with a realization.
“Oh my God, there’s someone else’s heart beating in my chest right now.”
That someone else was Cody Stebel. He died in a car crash at just twenty years old.
Cody’s parents were there when Gene started his walk from the Cleveland Clinic earlier this month.
He didn’t anticipate the wicked spring weather we’ve had. After a blinding blizzard, he realizes he now needs a vehicle.
“I now have my own vehicle, and I take the vehicle, I park about two and a half miles away. And then I hike back, and I talk to folks along the way, and then I hike back,” said Shimandle.
But he’s still determined to walk thirteen miles a day.
And while he says it’s not easy, there’s a moment that inspires him from this past Thanksgiving.
“Cody’s mom got to listen to her son’s heart beating in my chest Thanksgiving morning,” said Shimandle. “It’s the most blessed Thankgiving I will ever have.”
When he gets to Washington he want to meet with decision makers about a national place of recognition for organ donors and recipients.
His journey is supposed to be 27 days. 357 miles.
He hopes to make it to Washington by May 8. That’s the one year anniversary of his transplant.