Eight months after being in intensive care, Eugene has taken on an epic 45 mile walk as part of his recovery and to raise funds for Harefield Hospital where he was a patient

I did the walk!!

Just like Forest Gump when my feet went into action (or as one of my friends kindly called me the Duracell Bunny) there was no stopping them. Over four days my target was 56 km (35 miles) and with the support of my dear wife, who walked the whole way with me and my kids acting as pace setters, I managed 73 kms (45 miles). I remind you that roughly 10 months ago I was still in a coma and 8 months ago I had to use a stick to prop me up to walk a few metres, and so to me the elation is similar to climbing Everest.

The walk is over and rather like a parent seeing his child go off to school for the first time, I am full of pride and at the same time sad with saying goodbye to something which has been with me since last October.

So how was the walk?

Fantastic. However before I respond, I want to pay tribute to two sets of people. First, I decided to do the walk to express my gratitude to all the NHS staff who cared for me. I owe you my life. Then there is my family. My great family who were there when I could not walk and there to help me when I needed it after my release from hospital in August. To my strong and beautiful wife and to my two energetic and marvellous children, I salute you. I would have struggled without your patience and support.

Now I can talk about the walk. As you may recall it was to start on Friday 26th March 2021.

For the whole week before I felt anxious. Although I had trained well, I had only walked the really long distances on one day in any week and the thought of repeating such distances over four successive days filled me with dread. Stage fright, I called it.

The weather was atrocious and it promised to be even worse on Friday.

Disaster struck on the Sunday before when my faithful walking shoes gave in and the lining started to unravel. To wear them would have resulted in blisters and that is not good with sensitive feet such as mine. I had bought an identical pair as reserve but Sod’s law they rubbed in all the wrong places - I would never be able to wear them for any length of time - it would take too long to break them in. I had cold sweats and shivers thinking of what to do. My memory is not great, but I woke in the middle of the night to the vague recollection that I had an old pair of trainers in a bag I used to use in those halcyon days when I went to a gym.

Eureka, in the morning at first light I dusted off the bag, opened it and found my salvation. The shoes are now immortalised in a photo I will treasure for a long time.

So I planned to eat well and sleep lots. I did neither at all well. There was quite a bit to organize, especially coordinating my friends in a number of countries who wanted to walk with me at the same time in their respective locations, because they could not be with me in person. See Day Three for the full story.

Day one Friday 26 March:

The three bridges of Hammersmith, Putney and Wandsworth.

We planned to start at 2.30 PM, which was just as well because it poured down all morning. The afternoon was marginally better but cold and windy.

By an uncanny coincidence the hospital arranged a cardiology check up for me. Like so many medical appointments in these Covid times it was remote by phone. The first thing I asked the heart consultant was did he want me to hold the phone to my chest so he could hear it beating? I think he may have laughed. I told him about the walk I was about to undertake and he said that was a marvellous sign of my recovery and unless something intervened he did not need to see me for ages. Great I had the green light to go.

My wife Victoria and Natalia my daughter suffered with me. The rain meant my newly discovered shoes were not suitable so I had to wear winter boots - yes it was that bad - and I made it to Hammersmith Bridge cold and damp and feet hurting and I recall thinking “how am I going to make this?”

On the way back towards Fulham football stadium, I could see the tower block which is the Charing Cross Hospital where I spent the final three weeks of my hospital adventure last year. I was in Rehabilitation there and when I left in mid-August I could barely walk with the support of a stick. The mere fact of thinking back on that was enough to give me the required kick in the backside to get moving!

Victoria volunteered to walk the whole way. She is a great walker and it is poetic justice and by no accident that she volunteered. She minded the fort while I was “asleep” last year, gave me tremendous support and she was proud to see me battle on.

The windy conditions made it challenging to hold a conversation so there was time to think. I recalled the encouragement I had from a friend who himself had experienced severe heart problems and he “got it” about what I was doing. His messages, always seemed to be timed when I needed a boost, really worked wonders - that and the growing donations to the charity!

My planned toilet stop was frustrated by us being one minute late and the facilities in the park were already locked. Fortunately, one of those portable toilets was unlocked close to road works and the workmen were more than happy to turn a blind eye.

Day two Saturday 27 March

Knightsbridge and Sloane Square

Woke early and checked outside to see what the weather was going to throw our way. Sunny though cold. Great as meant I would be wearing my more comfortable walking trainers. Yesterday hurt my feet.

Some domestic chores in the morning and we set off in early afternoon - only the two of us.

Weather started fine then became overcast and windy. Felt a bit tired at points. My existence over the last year has been quite isolated what with hospital last year, recovery and then stricter Covid restrictions so I enjoyed the chance to see people in the streets and even window shop as we walked through Knightsbridge and Sloane street.

We completed 16km and I can tell you my hot shower and dinner were magical that night.

Half way.

Day three Sunday 28 March

Overcast start though they promised sunny spells.

Exciting day with friends walking with me in their individual countries. Why?

Back in November or so when I first approached friends and family for sponsorship monies some friends volunteered to arrange to be in the UK to walk with me - they live in Spain and France. A great plan. However, covid restrictions rendered this impossible so I came up with plan B which was a virtual walk timed so that all of us in the UK, France and Spain could set off together and walk at least the mandatory daily 14 km.

Two friends from just outside London would “meet” us in Hyde Park.

I posted over various sizes of RBH charity T shirts and banners to my fellow walkers.

Remarkably we managed to leave the house on time, all four of us, and arrived in Hyde Park on time at 12.30. Amazing.

We walked to China Town, ordered a takeaway and had an open air picnic at various tables in a nearby church yard-cum-park, naturally all suitably socially distanced. Food was great however the wind made it one of the coldest meals I had had for a long time.

Refuelled, we set off again. Green Park and stopped by Buckingham Palace for afternoon tea - only joking.

All day long, we shared photos and messages during the day on the WhatsApp group Walk Talk I had set up. Spain made us all jealous because every photo had an obvious blue sky as background and bars and restaurants clearly still open unless the walkers had carried their own wine glasses and table in their back packs! My friend in Brittany France had similar weather to us and he persevered the whole 14 km by himself.

I was touched by the effort everyone made - in fact since last year the moral support from all sides has given me boosts at times when I needed the reassurance the most. Thank you one and all.

We passed Victoria station, were joined by my daughter Natalia’s boyfriend and refreshed by a quick visit to the toilets in the station, we moved on through the leafy gardens of Eton Square and down Kings Road. Photo opportunity outside the RBH offices at junction with Sydney Street and in due course back home.

An incredible 24km, weather beaten but ecstatic over the distance. Yes before you ask, the stairs were a killer and legs, muscles, feet in fact everything ached. Everything but what a great day it had been!

As on the previous days I updated my Just Giving page and various interested parties (especially my dad) with the day’s results and an image of my STRAVA map to verify the distance.

Phew one more day to go.

Day four Monday 29 March - final day

The three bridges again.

I couldn’t believe I had made it to the last day. I was excited. I had been planning and working towards this final day since October and that seemed ages ago in terms of my progress.

I woke at 5 AM. Legs ached, balls of my feet felt the pressure when I stood up and my back was sore too. However, it was a dry day and they promised an afternoon of warmer temperatures.

I had work to do in the morning, a light lunch and my wife, daughter Natalia and I set off at 3 PM. Mark my son was to join us at Bishops Park after his school day. Covid rules were relaxed that same day so Natalia’s friend could join us though not sure she fully appreciated we would be walking 18 kms - she had in mind 14 maximum.

The sun was shining and we were going to walk the same route as on the first day. No fear of boredom because it was like a different world without the wind and rain and with the benefit of many more happier faces passing us by.

Half way on the day’s required distance we had a picnic of takeaway hot dogs and chips. Hardly food fit for prime “athletes” such as ourselves but who cared - it was the last day after all.

The second half was the hardest of the four days and it took all our collective energies to finish the walk. We made sure we took plenty of photos including me walking through the barrier/wrap the RBH had kindly supplied.

My son filmed a short clip of me walking up to and then through the finish line and you know that is the first time I have seen how I walk and you can definitely notice a limp on the left side; not a limp serious enough to merit the use of a stick yet once the gyms reopen I will have to investigate weight training to see if I can improve the strength of that leg. The consultants tell me confidently that I did not have a stroke and that any weakness/ loss of power or sensation in the left hand and leg is most likely some sort of nerve damage caused by the trauma of time spent in ICT. Hell, I went through a lot of trauma and am still alive so who’s complaining or worried about small inconveniences.

I had finished. Yes!!

Thank you to everyone who supported me with donations and with endless emotional support.

I allowed myself the remainder of the day to enjoy the afterglow and the congratulations from family and friends before asking myself:

“What next?”

What next indeed!?

Well done Eugene on completing this epic walk. If you want to support Eugene's fundraising for patients at Harefield hospital, you can give to his just giving page here:

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