Saturday 21 May 2022, still early morning and I’m in the Riverside Studios beside Hammersmith Bridge, a 30-minute brisk walk from my house, hoping for inspiration and a peaceful moment to write this blog. 

Immediately opposite me is a “life-size” Dalek - of Dr Who fame. This modern building stands on the site of the original BBC studios where in the sixties and beyond they filmed such childhood favourites as Blue Peter, Z-Cars and, of course, many episodes of Dr Who, which I recall watching as a child hidden behind the sofa on a Saturday night when the Daleks and Cybermen would fill the screen of our black and white TV.

This bridge is significant for me, as it was the first stopping point on my walk last year. The marked difference is that now everything is buzzing and open. I reflect on what has happened to me in the year since my last blog and why I have decided to do the London Bridges Walk in July.

My previous blogs, and you’ll find a link at the end of this blog if you have time to read, described my journey from a bedridden patient in summer 2020 who had just had open heart surgery, a prolonged coma, a month in intensive care, severe weight and muscle loss and months in rehabilitation, but who managed to fight my way back to walking again and completed a 70 km walk in March 2021. Of course, I didn't do it alone and I owe so much to many NHS staff and to my wonderful family and friends who have supported me every inch of the way.

My journey was about ensuring that my attitude was in the right place as much as rebuilding my strength and stamina. I came to realise that walking brought me serenity and rebooted my spirit.

I am blessed to live in a part of London close to the Thames and bordered by parks such as Bishops Park on my side of the river and open land on the Putney Barnes side fronting the Wetland Centre. During the pandemic restrictions these places were my godsend. I am proud to say I still walk every day, barring a few (and I mean a few) when the weather makes it impossible. Moreover, I get the same buzz and each time a new adventure.

I have so much to be thankful for. During the pandemic I was on the extremely vulnerable list for ages, but I escaped the virus, partly due to luck and likely thanks to vaccines and boosters.

Over the last year, I have worked my way around various medial disciplines as part of ongoing monitoring; out of principle I walked to (and from) the various hospitals. Thankfully, and nothing personal of course, I am glad I will not have to see many of them for a very long time.

My kidneys work fine and there are no lasting complications. Liver scans show that the acute damage which troubled me for so long, has repaired itself. What a marvellous organ that is. I do have to take care not to overdo alcohol, but I can live with that.

My lungs have some permanent damage, again a small price to pay and besides I am sure I can work harder to compensate for any weakness.

My heart itself is sound - the irony of me having open heart surgery was that my heart as an organ was healthy, it was the sack of skin holding it in situ which was damaged. The muffler of skin (the pericardium) was removed so I’ve had to get used to a louder heartbeat and a weird feeling when the heart seems to move if I am leaning sideways - no bad thing as it acts as a constant reminder of just how fortunate I am to be here. I joked with a friend that Harefield will always be in my heart just as part of my heart will always be in Harefield!

Not everything is rosy, but I am coping with the challenges; I am plagued now and again by cold sweat like flashbacks to the trauma of intensive care and the aftermath and I still have annoying nerve damage to my hand and left leg, which makes them weaker than the other side. I was checked out while in hospital and last year a follow up MRI on my brain confirmed the lack of any stroke. It seems I suffered nerve damage simply due to the trauma of an extended stay in ICU. Life I suppose. I hasten to clarify that this paragraph is not a grumble, rather a reminder to self to work harder and grow stronger.

Much to the amazement of all the consultants I am on no medication whatsoever - I am one lucky individual.

OK, so why agree to do another formal walk? Last time Covid-19 restrictions meant I had to organise it all for myself and limit myself to the three bridges in my area, Hammersmith, Putney and Wandsworth. The lure of walking a different set of six bridges was irresistible. Besides, it will be fun to meet other walkers and to help raise awareness and funds for Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity. I suppose I also want to celebrate that I am alive and show no matter how bad things were (and I was not in a good place in those dark months) there is hope and time can make a huge difference.

I guess another factor is that a walk in July should mean I get to enjoy better weather than I am used to!

I hope my wife can join us on the day - she loves walking too and she strode alongside me the whole way last time.

As for preparation, well as I said I walk every day and I’ve bought myself some new trainers, which I will break in ahead of the event.

I don't want to ask my friends and family to donate, as they have all done more than enough to support me in the past, so this time I am going to contribute the amount I have saved in petrol and train fares over the last 12 months because I was working from home rather than commuting.

Meanwhile the journey continues.

I’ll update you all after the walk in July.

Eugene has previously written for us about his time at Harefield Hospital, his training for a fundraising walk for the Charity and what happened on his walk. Everyone at Charity HQ wishes Eugene all the best for the London Bridges Walk.

If you would like to join Eugene in walking across six iconic bridges over the Thames and raising funds for Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals, then like him you can sign up for our London Bridges Walk.

Sign up for the London Bridges Walk