Well I think I’m just about over the ‘Team Mash Blues’ that’s largely due to the fact I’ve got the Transplant Games this weekend then we are off to Thailand for two weeks of family time!
I cannot begin to thank everyone enough for being involved in the Team Mash ride, I say ride, its very much become more than that. We’ve had virtual riders walking 342 miles, Cake sales, BBQ’s, fete’s, and now my fellow superhuman mate Eloise is swimming 342 lengths of her holiday swimming pool. But more importantly we have become a movement for Organ donation. We have sent a positive message that organ donation really does save lives and transform lives.
Looking back Its quite difficult for me to even remember the 98KG chap who couldn’t carry his kids up to bed. The chap who would vomit every morning and every time I ate. The chap who constantly looked for the next opportunity to have a nap, the chap who would be in the Bristol Heart institute at least once a week fighting for them not to admit me. The chap who was frustrated daily by the shackles of heart failure.
This wasn’t just a big bike ride for me, it was the opportunity to fulfil an ambition to physically challenge myself alongside other people who had never had any heart issues. It was a dream come true.
As the sun came out after the first feed station on day one all of the organisation, planning and training felt like it had all come together, the route was like scenes from a delightful tour of England’s finest countryside, perfectly cropped cornfields, small little villages with churches and dry stone walls rolled by as we peddled our way up the country, each hill revealed a new scene, a new picture in my memory banks, a new conversation to recall whilst making new friendships along the way.
Everyone had been touched by organ donation in one way or another and I felt this made what we were doing so special. briefly comprising of: the Portishead boys who were all friends of the late Jonathan Osborne as well as the Computerworld guys. Nicky and Ronan Walsh who’s Dad had received a lung transplant at the Freeman. Lou who I’d met through our CCTGA group who I had cheekily taunted into doing the ride , Mike with TGA, Richard 5 years post double Lung Transplant, Meridoc who knew nobody but saw me in the Evening Standard. Then Mike and Jackie and the formidable James (12) Jackie being Jonathan’s sister and James her son who put us all to shame. Also riding in his Dad’s memory and someone who is set to be a superb cyclist Joe (15) who i think could have quite happily cycled back to Bristol..Also Kenny who’s wife had had a heart around the same time as me Then my Brother Tony and my Brother-in Law Glyn and his mates. As well as good friends of mine and not forgetting the man who kept me alive long enough to get me to transplant Dr Graham Stuart , who sees so many people in desperate need for transplantation.
Each stop we were greeted by the sights of the Team Mash Vans parked outside the most lovely WI’s or in carparks where Jim and Aaron would set up the Transplant Association gazebo and position the huge amounts of cakes, snacks, gels, drinks and fruit for us to stop and feed ourselves to bursting only for them to have to pack it all away again and get to the next stop. Maggie, Vanessa and Emma being on hand if we need anything which mostly consisted of Paracetamol and a scotch egg as big as my head in my case!
Off we would go again re-fuelled and energised and a short time after we would leave the familiar sound of Craig’s motorbike would roar behind us and he would go by with an encouraging wave and an indication of miles to the next stop or directions at tricky junctions. This to me was always a welcome noise I felt the team was being looked after… he also had the all important defibrillator on board which thankfully nobody needed!!
Thankfully due to dark glasses nobody could see but I would often be cycling with tears in my eyes, I would think about what we were doing and what my donor and his family had enabled me to do, not a mile passed without me being eternally thankful to them and the fantastic Doctors, Nurses of the NHS that we are so lucky to have in the UK
We met some great people at the stops also. strangers would come and talk to us and congratulate us for what we were doing. Old family friends popped up along the route with banners and words or encouragement.. even my Karate instructor and friend Tim and his wife Alison surprised me at the WI I’m sure the lure of Cake had something to do with it but it really lifted my spirits. as did seeing my Mum and Dad and Aunty Mo and the Ditchfields plus Paul C in Nottingham.
Nothing quite prepared me for the first glimpse of the Angel of the North, emotion took me from that moment and I welcomed the hands of Glyn and Mark as they shoved me up those final few hills. The thought of hugging Jo and my boys and being able to say… ‘I DID IT’ was so powerful. Thank you Jo Josh Liam and Luke for allowing me the time to plan, train and fulfil a dream.
Being joined at the Angel for the last 7 miles by transplanted guys like the lovely Rachel Hooley and Vicky and Wendy was great, cycling those final miles with my boys was challenging at times due to the hills and roads but arriving with them at the Freeman was very special. It only took Josh a few minutes for all of the emotion of the last time he was there to come back to him.. he cried and said ‘It was so horrible leaving you here Dad’… well you never have to do that again son.
As Andrew recently said, we left as 50 individuals but arrived the the Angel of the North and subsequently the Freeman as a Team, friendships were made we shared laughs, tears, pain and ultimately a sense of massive achievement.
Donations are still coming in but we have raised over £35,000 in fundraising alone, which is a fantastic amount of money that will go on to fund the nursing staff in transplant centres around the country.
A huge thank you to all of our sponsors for making this possible.
and finally something i am particularly proud of… According to the NHSBT 165 people have joined the organ donor register directly from the Team Mash website link.
Together we have made a difference… until the next time… Thank you for being part of Team Mash