On the 12th April 2011 I walked into our en-suite, turned round and said “I don’t think I feel too well..!” That’s all I remember. I collapsed dead onto the floor.
I awoke in the resuscitation unit of the local hospital and for the next 2 weeks I laid motionless in the ICU, by my side was the machine that goes “ping..!” and the lovely Ellisa. We were due to be married on the 21st April, but that was now not a possibility.
I had suffered a massive Pulmonary Embolism. The huge clot had formed in my right leg, caused by a trauma whilst playing tennis in March 2011. I had no knowledge of DVT’s apart from thinking “you get them by flying a lot.” The DVT had formed and then travelled through my deep veins, eventually filling my heart and lungs up with a massive pulmonary embolism.
Should I have known the symptoms or been aware of the signs of such a life threatening condition? Hindsight now says yes..! But in April 2011 I had no idea of the symptoms or signs.
During 2013 I had started rehabilitation and I had planned to raise funds for and awareness of Lifeblood (the thrombosis charity), with a goal of completing a half marathon on a gym cross trainer. Training was proceeding well, right up to the 16th August 2013, when Ellisa (now my wife) and I were in a serious RTC, caused by a driver not paying attention to the road ahead (in which we had broken down). The seriousness of my condition raised its’ head, as, since April 2011 I am on lifelong medication which affects the bloods ability to clot, so with my right leg now completely out of action the paramedics fought to control the bleeding.
In 2014 I started Charity Oars; it was part therapy and part fund raising. Again, all in the name of raising awareness of Thrombosis (DVT’s and Pulmonary Embolisms) and raising funds for Lifeblood. In all honesty I never expected it to become such a big thing, but the response so far has been amazing. We’ve met and talked to many sporting stars, television and film stars, as well as popular public figures. The Charity Oars have met Dame Tami Grey-Thompson, Fern Britton, Clare Balding, Helen Glover, Dr Dawn Harper, Dean Headley, Allan Lamb, Simon Jones, Billy Connolly, Stephen Merchant, Steve Coogan, Boris Johnson and many more.
The most fascinating impact though is direct with the public. As I travel around the country with the Charity Oars, I’m frequently approached by members of the public, more than often with a quizzical look upon their faces wondering “why is this 6’ chap on the Piccadilly Line with a pair of 8’ oars? Or “why is that chap carrying a pair of oars down the High Street?” I like being asked “why?” as it enables me to talk about Thrombosis to a complete stranger in a way that is open and free for discussion. Being able to mention some of the stars who have helped the Charity Oars campaign so far enables everyone to relate to the campaign, and it’s fascinating as to the stories that are out there concerning loved ones, family and friends who have been affected by thrombosis. My favourite story is still the old lady (must have been in her 90’s) who said; “We all know it was a blood clot that killed our poor mum, of course the bomb that hit the house dropped by the Luftwaffe didn’t help, but it was the blood clot that killed her…!”
So I’ve made it to 2015, and I (remarkably) still remain optimistic. This year I have 2 key campaigns taking place. Firstly World Thrombosis Day on the 13th October 2015. This is when we will be auctioning off the Charity Oars (along with other sporting memorabilia). Every penny raised goes directly to Lifeblood (the thrombosis charity), the entire campaign is funded by me personally. The other key campaign this year is a “jolly downhill cycle ride” from John O’Groats to Lands End in May 2015. The cycle ride is the #challenge57 and I’m proud to be supporting Fern Britton and the Genesis Research Trust as the key charity. Of course, if I’m able to raise awareness of Thrombosis along the way then it’s a win win…!
The Genesis Research Trust is a very personal cause for me and one that I am so proud to support.
Hand on my heart (yes it’s still there and beats occasionally) after the events of 2011 for me to be contemplating such an event as the #challenge57 would have been unthinkable a short while ago, and I’m pretty sure one or two of my consultants would have frowned upon such an adventure. But if I am able to complete such a challenge after everything my body and mind has been through in the past 4 years, I hope it acts as a small light of hope and comfort for those who have suffered or sadly lost a loved one to Thrombosis.
So how exactly did I get talked into the #challenge57 campaign I hear you ask?
Well …. As I sat in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, having just introduced the Charity Oars to Billy Connolly, my trusty phone beeped. A message from Fern Britton appeared in my timeline. “Care to cycle from John O’Groats to Lands End in May?” As I sat there, pondering, enjoying a glass of wine (purely medicinal) I made the decision then and there to support Fern and the Genesis Research Trust. After a few messages back and forth, a deal was agreed; it’s all downhill (apparently) and Phil Vickery will provide the sandwiches.
So in May this year I will be cycling 1000 miles and my target is to raise over £7000 to help with the research into miscarriages and the continuing work of the Genesis Research Trust.
Please support my rather foolhardy challenge, if nothing else it’s certainly going to be an interesting and amusing adventure …!
Just Giving: www.justgiving.com/westerscycle
Text: OARS78 to 70070
Whose signed (up to 6th January 2015):
Stephen Merchant, Jeremey Sallis, Boris Johnson, Allan Lamb, Brendan Burke, Harry Peck, Sacha Harding, Dean Headley, Simon Jones, Billy Connolly, Steve Coogan, Clare Balding, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Martin Bayfield, Austin Healey, Craig Doyle, James Pritcahrd, Fern Britton, Dr Dawn Harper, Zoe Lee, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Helen Glover, Dr James Logan, Johny Walton, George Nash and Will Satch.
Who will be signing in 2015:
Matthew Pinsent, Amy Williams, Jordanne Whiley,Hannah Cockroft, Jade Jones, Dr Michele Ross
Who would you like to sign the Charity Oars in 2015?
Thank you for your continued support