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Port Talbot newlywed climbs North Africa’s highest mountain after life-saving heart op

01 Jan 2023 4 minute read
Dai Jones, who underwent heart surgery at the Morriston Hospital in Swansea, handing over a cheque for £1,100 he raised climbing North Africa’s tallest mountain. Photo Swansea Bay Health Board.

A groom spent what should have been his honeymoon 2,000 miles away from his wife because of a very different matter of the heart.

Dai Jones, 40, from Port Talbot, underwent life-saving emergency surgery at Morriston Hospital’s cardiac centre in 2020.

After he returned home, his long-term fiancee Rachel told him he should celebrate his recovery by fulfilling one of his dreams.

Mr Jones booked a trip to climb North Africa’s highest mountain and raise money for the cardiac centre too.

Then they decided to tie the knot but the date they settled on was just two days before he was due to depart for Africa to climb Mount Toubkal in Morocco.

Although Mr Jones wanted to rearrange the trip, his wife insisted otherwise. And so, with her blessing, he flew off to complete the challenge 48 hours after the couple’s wedding ceremony.

The swimming pool engineer has always kept physically fit but his life changed dramatically when he went for a run during the first lockdown.

“I’d only gone about a quarter of a mile up the road and I couldn’t breathe properly,” said Mr Jones, father to daughters Poppy, 13, Evie, 11, and four-year-old Erin.

“I came home and told Rachel there was something not right. She told me to go to the doctor. He gave me a test and said I had a very loud murmur. He wanted it checked out.

“Between then and him getting me an appointment, I woke up one morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep. There was no pain but something just didn’t feel right.”

Aortic aneurism

Tests at Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, showed an aortic aneurism, which can be life-threatening.

After spending three days in the Bridgend hospital in September 2020, Mr Jones was transferred to Morriston’s cardiac centre, ready for planned surgery to be carried out a few days later.

However, on his arrival an ECG showed a pending rupture aneurysm with fluid around the heart, which needed an emergency operation.

“Because we were in lockdown I wasn’t allowed any visitors,” he said.

“When I first asked if Rachel could come and see me, I was told nobody was allowed unless it was to say goodbye.

“When they told me that and I asked if I should ring her, they told me they had already rung her and she was on her way in.

“That put everything into perspective. I hadn’t seen my daughters for a few days. I had that feeling of, am I ever going to see them again?”

Surgeons removed the aneurism and replaced a defective valve.

Dai Jones at the peak of North Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Toubkal in Morocco.

After getting married, Mr Jones travelled to Morocco and spent two days climbing the 4,167 metre high Mount Toubkal.

“We walked from there up to base camp. That was about seven and a half miles. We had tea in base camp and then we slept there,” he said.

“We left then early in the morning and went up the mountain. It took us about four hours to get to the top.

“It was harder than I thought it would be. It wasn’t a straight walk. There was a lot of climbing, bouldering, scrambling. It was pitch black as well because we left at 3am to get up there in time for sunrise.

“We then spent the whole day walking down. At the end I was delighted with myself because I did it. But when it came to around 7.30pm that night and we were all sitting, having food and talking, I said I had to go. I’m knackered.”

Mr Jones funded the entire cost of the trip from his own pocket, but asked for donations for the the Morriston Hospital and raised £1,100.

Not long after returning to Port Talbot, Mr Jones was off on his honeymoon with his wife to Naples.

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