NHS doctors, nurses and patients tackle Olympic Park challenge for rheumatism cause

The fundraisers from the East and North Herts NHS Trust Rheumatology Department. Picture: Teresa Sha

The fundraisers from the East and North Herts NHS Trust Rheumatology Department. Picture: Teresa Shakespeare-Smith - Credit: Archant

NHS doctors, nurses and patients completed a sponsored abseil-relay at the Olympic Park on Saturday to raise £10,000 towards an ultrasound machine for Stevenage’s Lister Hospital.

East and North Herts NHS Trust Rheumatology Department abseilers Spencer Ellis and Louise Hawkins. P

East and North Herts NHS Trust Rheumatology Department abseilers Spencer Ellis and Louise Hawkins. Picture: Teresa Shakespeare-Smith - Credit: Archant

The team from the East and North Herts NHS Trust’s rheumatology department – based at the Lister, Hertford County Hospital and the New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City – took on the challenge in Stratford to raise funds towards the £30,000 machine and support those affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

The event was the brainchild of Hitchin’s Teresa Shakespeare-Smith – who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for 13 years – and Sharon Pearson, her rheumatology specialist nurse at the Lister.

NRAS volunteer Teresa told this paper: “I had been in remission until December last year. Sharon and Dr Spencer Ellis fought hard to get me back into remission so that I could continue to function from day to day and go to work.

“I wanted to give something back as a thank you, and discovered that an ultrasound machine in the department would be an enormous help to staff and benefit patients.”


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Sharon, Dr Ellis and nurses Angela Cook and Louise Hawkins first completed a 262ft free-fall abseil from the ArcelorMittal Orbit, before handing the baton over to runners, cyclists and walkers who completed between 5km and 15km each.

The baton contained the logos of the Trust, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and the European League Against Rheumatism theme ‘Don’t Delay, Connect Today’.

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Relatives including the team’s children, aged between seven and 15, also took part in the challenge – and the adrenaline-fuelled abseilers even went on to cycle the course after completing their descent.

Dr Bhathiya Wijeyekoon ran 10km, nurse Fidelma Gordon cycled 13km with her daughters Holly, 13, and Georgia, eight, and nurse Alex Eden – fresh from maternity leave – cycled 10km with her mum Dawn Elms.

Sharon cycled with her husband Karl – whose company Crofton Interiors sponsored the event – and family friends Louise Godden, 15-year-old Amy Godden and six-year-old Matthew Hawkins.

Delyth Bysouth, a patient, ran 5km as her daughters Zoe, nine, and Zara, seven, scooted alongside her.

Teresa walked 6km with her husband Ray – who refused to be beaten by a chest infection – and patient John Driscoll also completed the walk.

The first machine is set to go to the Lister, but further fundraising events might fund dedicated machines for rheumatology at all three hospitals.

If you’d like to support the team’s fundraising, see justgiving.com/fundraising/teresa-shakespeare-smith.

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