AS a toddler saddled with a huge hole in his heart, Jeremy Scott struggled to crawl.
Every time he tried to exert himself, his defective aortic valve would put the brakes on.
Deprived of the rough and tumble of early childhood, the Kiwi youngster got sicker more often and took longer to bounce back.
Aged only 4, Jeremy had open heart surgery at the hands of pioneering Kiwi heart surgeon Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes.
“That surgery was the catalyst for me to live a normal life,” Jeremy said.
Speaking ahead of his talk at a HeartKids charity event in Albury on Saturday, Jeremy said after a decade working as an architectural draftsman in London he was craving a meaningful challenge.
He began reading articles about people doing epic bike trips.
“I thought: ‘I’m not flying home; I’m going to ride’,” he said.
Thirty-four years after his heart surgery, with no training or even a bike to his name, Jeremy committed to a journey that would eventually cover almost 52,000 kilometres.
Over 2½ years he rode through 29 countries from London to Auckland.
Jeremy said simplifying his life to two bags and a bike was beyond liberating.
“I had a couple of bags on a bike and I’d never been happier with so little,” he said.
Jeremy said acts of kindness from strangers throughout the world would stay with him forever.
“The hospitality I received in Iran was overwhelming; I was blown away by the kindness I received there,” he said.
Jeremy said the moment that gave him real perspective on his life happened in Vietnam.
He met the brother of a man who had died during heart surgery by Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes just two years before his own surgery.
“His brother’s death in that pioneering surgery could have gone on to save my life,” he said.
“That was the moment that changed my approach to fundraising and raising awareness.”
Jeremy documented his journey through his photography for a book, The Long Road From A Broken Heart, published in late 2014.
He donates 10 per cent of book sales to the New Zealand, Australian and British Heart Foundations.
Now based in Melbourne, Jeremy said he wanted to inspire kids born with heart problems like his own.
“I want them to know what they’re capable of if they dream big and give it a go.”
Jeremy will speak at the Albury Library on Saturday from 3pm to 5pm.
The event is free to HeartKids families. Others are welcome for a donation to the charity.