Towards the end of 2020, Eugene set himself an amazing challenge which will not only support our Charity, but the training will help his recovery after months in ICU. With seven weeks until the challenge kicks off, we’re checking in with Eugene to see how he’s progressed

2020 was, on the one hand, one of the most difficult years of my life, yet at the same time, one of the more positive ones. Due to an unfortunate chain of events, I had to have open heart surgery at Harefield Hospital and ended up in a medically induced coma for three weeks. I had lost a silly amount of weight - after spending months in intensive care, high dependency and other wards - and my body and vital organs took a severe beating. At one stage I could hardly move my left arm and leg. When I was discharged in mid-August, I could scarcely walk with the support of a stick, my joints ached, and I was still very weak.

I read somewhere that proper recovery can take as long as one month for each day in intensive care. That makes sense; however, such time frames are not fixed in stone and will vary from patient to patient.

The Rehabilitation team at Charing Cross, where I spent time recovering after Harefield, did a marvellous job of setting me on the path to recovery. They told me it would take time, advised me to push myself but accept that there will be some bad days too and, most important of all, to keep to a regular exercise routine. They gave me a series of exercises to improve my flexibility and strength, and religiously each morning I get myself up before the rest of the family to fit in the 45 minutes workout. At first it was hard, and I had to force myself but now I suffer from a very stiff body if I miss a session.  I fear slipping backwards in the physical sense so that is enough to ensure blank days are few and far between.

Thankfully I have made good progress and, much to my own satisfaction, I am not on any medication.

Through my training I’ve found more inner strength than I ever imagined I could muster, I discovered that aiming for the light at the end of the tunnel was a worthwhile exercise and recovery after a long illness is as much a mental feat as a physical one. 

In the process of trying to recover I have discovered the value of proper food, how physical exercise can improve one’s mental wellbeing and how mastering the baby steps, at your own pace, can be turned into satisfactory progress.

The main walk

Back in October I set myself the challenge of walking 56km (35 miles) to raise money for the Charity, as a way to express my gratitude to Royal Brompton & Harefield hospitals and the whole of the NHS. The walk will take place between 26-29 March.

When I sat down to write this blog, the reality of what I had committed to do hit me like the proverbial sledgehammer.  How was I ever going to get myself through the next seven weeks? Thankfully, having gone public about the walk, and with pledges and donations now over £5000, I am more determined than ever to ignore the aching limbs and grumbling muscles and just get on with it.

Since I started my training in October, I have aimed to walk each and every day, but there have been a few days when the weather was so wet that I would have done more harm to myself than benefit. In fact, looking back over my records I have steadily built up my distances and overall have over 500km under my belt - moving from a struggle to do a maximum of 2km in a single day to much more satisfactory numbers in recent weeks. The one steady adversary and challenge has been winter weather, but it has not been the only one.

My challenges

Covid-19: Watching the horror inflicted on some families, our family thanks our lucky stars for every new day without an infection. Covid-19 restrictions, and the need to protect myself from crowds, means I have had to think very carefully about my walking routes and head out to walk early or late in the day. Given the uncertainty of what the Covid restrictions will look like around the dates of my walk, regrettably I have had to abandon my original plan to walk along a Roman Road and instead will use the paths along both banks of the River Thames. In any event no change to the distance to be walked; it will still be the same 56km!

Stamina: It’s amazing how small increments in each outing gradually accumulates. In October one to two kilometres was an effort, now I walk five with relative ease. At weekends I have more time and I push myself for longer stretches and because of that an 8km walk is within my control. 

Weather: As I write this (Sunday 7 February) it’s snowing!! It has been a long time since we had snow in London and hopefully it will not stay for too long. I love the silence snow brings but it does nothing to make it easier to leave the house.

I bought myself some key items; a new super reflective hat and gloves. Essential wear for the walker. Also, I invested in some new trekking shoes which I am trying to break in. Thankfully the swollen feet I suffered from last year have disappeared and apart from quite sensitive feet, I am back to normal size and comfort.

Motivation: The fact that people have supported me to the tune of over £5,000 in sponsorships, which will help so many in the same or worse position as I was in last year, drives me to do whatever is necessary to complete the task in hand.

I still have hard days. On these days I look back over my records and count the days when I have blanks and remind myself how I hate those blank entries. Moreover, I reflect on how I was last August and how I would measure progress in terms of metres; now it is kilometres. Strava is an app I’m using to record my training and it’s really helped keep me to task.

What’s next?

The countdown to the 26 March is now well under way so no time for taking it easy. My goals for the coming weeks are to find additional sponsors and to walk, walk and do more walking. I am more motivated than ever to ignore the aching limbs and grumbling muscles and just get on with it.

Best of luck Eugene! We will be checking in with Eugene in April to hear all about his challenge, but if you’d like to show him a little encouragement and boost his motivation, you can get updates on Eugene’s training and support his efforts on Just Giving.

Support Eugene