By way of a quick introduction, my name is Tilman Marsh and I’m a 62 year-old male. I inherited my father’s genes, I’m tall and skinny, which included cardiomyopathy. I was always poor at endurance sports as a child and an adult, although I never really wondered why. After many strange episodes, in 1993 I was referred to Harefield Hospital. After undertaking a number of tests, I was quickly diagnosed by a consultant. After that, my condition was treated and controlled by medication successfully for around 10 years.

Managing cardiomyopathy

The treatment I received from Harefield Hospital at all times was very good. The medication controlled my symptoms, but the cardiomyopathy remained. When I was first diagnosed, the consultant explained that the cardiomyopathy would inevitably require a transplant.

After nearly 10 years of controlling my cardiomyopathy, the medication became less effective and my health deteriorated. In August 2005, I returned to Harefield in very poor health indeed. I was barely able to walk and not able to climb more than four steps without exhaustion and feeling very poorly. I had problems with sleep and weight gain, as well as many other symptoms that I am sure you do not want to read about.

It was determined that I required a bi-VAD to be installed as both sides of my heart needed supporting. I was a resident in Harefield Hospital with the bi-VAD keeping me alive. I was only able to leave the ward with someone trained on sustaining me in the event of the bi-VAD failed. Thankfully it never did. The use of VADs at that time was new and I was part of a clinical trial to assess the efficacy of their use as a bridge to transplantation. They are now, I believe, a common device used at Harefield.

The gift of a donor heart

I was in hospital for nearly 10 months. In that time, I dreamt of one day being able to undertake long walks in the countryside. Thankfully, I received a gift of a heart and the transplant operation was a success. After being discharged from hospital, my goal was to regain my fitness and get back to being able to work and undertaking activities I enjoyed. I had always enjoyed walking and cycling prior to losing my health, so I set out to regain my fitness walking and cycling on a daily basis.

In 2010 I aimed to undertake the Coast To Coast walk with my family, whose support I relied on when in hospital. Together we raised a considerable amount of money for Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity. We undertook the walk starting just before the longest day in 2010 and had glorious weather throughout. My fitness stood up well, allowing me to complete the walk very successfully.

Our beekeeping journey

Our beekeeping journey started in 2011. Our interest in bees came about during the Coast To Coast walk, as we walked through a classic British flower meadow and noticed the distinct lack of insect life. Upon completion of the walk, we booked into our local beekeeping association and enrolled in a beginner’s beekeeping course. Shortly after we collected a swarm of bees, with an experienced beekeeper.

Since that first swarm we have had kept various colonies, mostly in our garden. We have been selling the excess honey and giving the proceeds to the Charity. Unfortunately, we couldn't sell it as Harefield Honey as the honey had to be sold from the area where it was collected. We sold close to 40lbs of honey each year, until the year of the pandemic.

Last year, Covid-19 meant the cancellation of many events and we lost the opportunity to sell the honey at the Harefield Fun Run. Despite this, we sold a record amount privately, which gave us the opportunity to give the money raised directly to the Charity. This led to us, through the Charity, to being able to talk to the hospital’s estates department about building an apiary, so we could manage bees on the Harefield hospital grounds, which would allow us to describe the honey as Harefield Honey.

Harefield Honey

This was undertaken with the express understanding that the honey collected will be provided to the Charity for them to sell to raise funds for the hospital. The honey we sell has not been adulterated in any way. It hasn't been heated or pasteurised. All the goodness and enzymes have not been destroyed. It hasn't been bulked out with sugar syrup, like a lot of honey sold in the UK (honey is the most adulterated food product in the world).

The 2021 honey harvest was particularly challenging. Just as the bees were increasing in their numbers, the cold, dry April came. This slowed the colonies population growth to the numbers required to bring in a honey crop. The honey collected from the hives at Harefield Hospital this year has been about a third of what we would have wanted. Unfortunately, the weather conspired against a good harvest. Other areas in the UK have had a good crop, however the South East hasn't.

Fortunately, by the end of the summer we did have enough to start selling Harefield Honey, which will be available to buy from the Pavillion in Harefield Hospital between 11 am and 1 pm, Thursday 30 September.