A year ago he could barely walk across the living room, but today there is nothing keeping New Plymouth's Jonathan Fowler from his 7.4km hike.
The 27-year-old Fowler was a terminally ill cystic fibrosis sufferer, who last December became one of the few New Zealanders to receive a double lung transplant. Now he will be walking Leg 19 of the Taranaki Steelformers Around the Mountain Relay, covering 7.4km from Oakura to Omata for the Breathers and Beaters team.
The red and yellow coloured team of six transplant recipients, plus 15 supporters, aims to raise awareness for organ donation.
It was started by well-known Taranaki advocate, teacher, and author Andrea Needham, who died in January this year after her body rejected her donated lungs following a long battle with Antitrypsin deficiency.
Needham invited Fowler to a lunch with the team before it entered its first relay, when at the time his own lung function was 15 per cent. "Everyone's really noticing her not being here at all, certainly it's good to do this one for her and keep doing it. "Even [back] then I was starting to cart oxygen around. My mobility wasn't too bad but certainly there was no way in hell I was going for big long walks or anything silly like that.
"Whereas now I have such a ridiculous amount of energy. There's really no words to describe just how different it is." With his lungs now functioning in the 80-90 per cent range, considered normal for anyone, Fowler has been working out on the treadmill at the YMCA to get ready for his leg. "It takes quite a long time for your whole body to get used to the shock of the fact that `hey, I'm up and I'm about' and I can actually start building up some proper muscle and putting on some weight."
His mother, stepfather, brother and other mates will be right alongside him. Leading an active life now, including being a leading tenpin bowler on the local scene, Fowler said he wants to give back by showing the public how much organ donation can improve lives. Previously his life expectancy was 36, but he will be leaving that in the rear view mirror. "No one can really try and hold me down, just try and stop me. I just have too much energy, so it's just great to get out there and do it all."