Riding 1000Km for Heart Research UK

A couple from Bristol are riding 1000km around the Hebrides this summer to help fundraise to pay for cardiac surgeons to attend a specialist course in spotting and treating a rare heart condition called aortic dissection, that results in the heart’s artery exploding if untreated. The trip is part of a year-long series of cycling challenges the couple have set themselves.

Bristol based software engineer Steve Ridley had played golf as normal on Sunday 4th January 2015. He had been for a New Year’s Day 40km bike ride with his wife, Fiona, and some friends. He started to feel unwell at 9pm that night, following a call to NHS direct (slight chest pain and a pulse of 44) an ambulance attended and took him to Bristol Royal Infirmary “just to be safe” as symptoms were not severe, the ECG was “normal”. By 5am he was being wheeled to theatre for emergency lifesaving surgery by a team of cardiac specialists. Luckily Bristol Heart Institute is located next door to A&E.

The doctors at the Bristol Heart Institute had spotted a tear (dissection) in Steve’s aorta, the main artery coming from the heart. If they hadn’t spotted it there’s every chance that the aorta could have ruptured in hours/days at most and he would have died very quickly. According to Heart Research UK, “It affects three to four people in every 100,000 in the UK.”

In praise of the doctors, Fiona pointed out, “They got the whole heart specialist operating team in that Sunday night who carried out very specialist surgery to graft a Dacron collar on the rupturing ascending aorta.” Who says we don’t have a 24 hour NHS? After 10 days in specialist hospital care he returned home and Steve started to return to to work seven weeks later.

The condition usually affects people with a genetic condition like Marfan’s Syndrome or those who may have other chronic health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and those over 65. Steve had none of these issues, showing that it can happen to just about anyone.

Fiona’s main hobby is cycling. On the day that Steve had fallen ill she had just completed her first 100km ride (with 1000 metres from Bristol to Chepstow) and back with a local road cycling club. The last year has focused her mind and this year she has won a place by ballot on Ride London 100 in July for which she plans on raising money for Heart Research UK to pay for more doctors training in this rare heart condition.

The Hebrides trip was planned for summer 2015 but Fiona laughed, “I’d already bought Steve the book covering the routes for Christmas prior to the traumatic shock in the New Year, I thought he may never do any cycling again, even if he lived.”

Though riding is Fiona’s hobby – Steve plays a lot of golf and keeps fit that way – they plan on riding over 1000km (and 10000m ascent) around the Inner and Outer Hebrides and West Coast Highlands of Scotland this summer during a fortnight’s self-supporting holiday. Fiona said, “On most days we’re planning on riding 80- 100km and taking the hills steadily. I won’t let him attempt the infamous Bealach na Bà, which I may attempt as a side trip on my own when we pass. We will be credit card touring (not camping, like we did on our mountaineering honeymoon to the area in 1988) and staying in hostels and some B&Bs. Coordinating the route and the ferry timetables is proving to be an enjoyable challenge in itself!” They will be blogging their year-long cycling challenge at http://iheartcyclinguk.blogspot.co.uk/

Where some charity rides are organised by companies who take their ‘cut’ before the rest of the money goes to charity, Fiona felt it important to point out, “None of the money goes to an organiser. Every single penny goes to Heart Research UK!”

If you want to support this couple’s push to help train doctors in how to diagnose and treat this rare and potentially fatal condition, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FionaRidley and pledge your support!


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