Kelly and Craig Perkins have gained international recognition for their remarkable courage and landmark accomplishments. With Craig’s support, Kelly has expanded the possibilities of what a heart transplant recipient can do, climbing mountains that few thought possible.
Born in 1961 and raised in Lake Tahoe, California
, Kelly enjoyed growing up in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. While attending college in San Francisco
, Kelly met Craig who shared her love for the outdoors. During their early courtship years, the two spent a great deal of time getting to know each other while backpacking in the mountains.
After getting married in 1987, their commitment to each other and desire to visit and hike in other parts of the world grew stronger. In 1992, Kelly and Craig were exercising their passion for travel and the outdoors by hiking the majestic trails of the Swiss Alps, in the shadow of the Matterhorn
, in celebration of their 5-year wedding anniversary.
Upon returning from this overseas trip, Kelly recall's the feeling of living a "fairytale life."
Just one month after returning from Europe
, Kelly started noticing some unusual symptoms, including a racing heartbeat. In September 1992 Kelly was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy after and EKG captured her resting heart rate at 190 beats per minute. She apparently caught a virus that infected her heart.
For 3 and a half tumultuous years, Craig and Kelly lived in and out of hospitals until her body eventually succumbed to the ill effects of a failing heart. On November 20, 1995, Kelly received a heart transplant at UCLA.
Renewed with life, Kelly went on to shock the medical world by becoming the first ever heart transplant recipient to reach the peak some of the world’s most famous mountains, including one of the “Seven Summits,” Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. In 2003, Craig and Kelly returned to the Swiss Alps to cast their own shadow on the trails below, this time while standing on the top of the Matterhorn
. Their remarkable comeback story is a testament to courage, commitment and the relentless desire to live.
Craig and Kelly continue to climb both for pure enjoyment as well in hopes of making a positive impact on organ, blood, and tissue donation and participation. In addition to planning their future climbs, they spend time as founding partners of HydraCoach, Inc.
, where through their experience as outdoor enthusiast they have developed a new hydration-monitoring product for athletes, patients and general health conscious consumers.