Man set to take on 500 mile cycle challenge for local NHS charity

A Yapton man is set to raise funds for West Sussex charity, Love Your Hospital, by taking on a gruelling 500 mile bike ride around the South of England.

Love Your Hospital is the dedicated charity for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and provides funding to benefit patients, visitors and staff at St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands Hospitals.

James Thomas, 52, will start his cycle challenge, called the ‘Roman500’, on 17th May to mark one year to the day since he underwent major bowel surgery at St Richard’s Hospital and to thank the staff for saving his life.

The challenge will consist of a seven day self-supported bike ride starting in Chichester and following ancient Roman Roads in a loop starting in Chichester and travelling through Silchester, Cirencester, Bath, Dorchester, Salisbury, Winchester and returning back to Chichester to mark the end of the route.

“I’m doing this to raise funds for St Richard’s and Worthing Hospitals and because of the incredible work undertaken by the staff there,” says James. “I also want to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease, which required me to have such extensive surgery in the first place, and has resulted in me living with a permanent stoma.”

James has suffered from Crohn’s disease for 25 years and surgery involved the removal of his entire colon and part of the small intestine, but despite the impact on his life, he insists he’s grateful to have had the procedure.

He says: “To be brutally honest, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had it done. Living with a stoma causes people a lot of anxiety which is heart-breaking. I’m hoping that by cycling 60 miles a day for seven days, people in a similar situation will be inspired and realise that they can still live a full life after surgery.”

Crohn’s disease is a chronic and lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed. A stoma is an artificial opening on the abdomen that can be connected to either the digestive or urinary system to allow waste to be passed into a pouch on the outside of the body. It is estimated that one in 500 people in the UK are currently living with a stoma.

James will be carrying all the necessary equipment such as a tent, sleeping bag, cooker and clothes on his bike with the added challenge of a stoma to care for which will also require careful monitoring of hydration and nutrition. He says: “Obviously, having major bowel surgery has consequences and the most significant relates to food and water. Neither is absorbed as efficiently and, whilst that isn’t an issue in normal daily life, the requirement for both significantly increases when faced with cycling on a heavily laden bicycle for days on end and has needed a lot of planning.”

Rebecca Hartley, a Stoma Care Nurse at St Richard’s Hospital, said: “James is such a huge inspiration, literally getting back on his bike just one year following major surgery for this massive challenge. It’s a brilliant demonstration of what is possible and that living with a stoma doesn’t stop you from living an active life. We are so proud of him and admire his determination in finding solutions to potential barriers and just going for it. The team here at St Richard’s and Worthing wish him the best of luck.”

James will be live on social media at points during the ride and will be posting regular updates using the hashtag #Roman500. He added: “Crohn’s disease is a difficult disease. The pain is intense, the exhaustion constant and navigating these aspects is an individual and lonely battle, but I am still here and doing very well. So well, in fact, that I’m going for a long bike ride to celebrate still being alive!” To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/roman500

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