King's Lynn man cycling from Land's End to north Scotland in aid of Addenbrooke's Hospital
After his wife underwent a life-changing double organ transplant, a Lynn man has pledged to cycle more than 1,000 miles in January as a gesture of appreciation for the care she received.
Charles Napolitano, 41, is virtually cycling the length of the UK from Land's End to John O'Groats, in aid of Addenbrooke’s Transplant Unit after his wife Jen, 36, had a simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant at the Cambridgeshire hospital in May 2019. He has set up a cycling machine in his garden shed for the challenge.
Mrs Napolitano said: "As I am clinically vulnerable due to the immunosuppression medication for my organs I have been shielding since March, and so we were trying to think of creative ways to safely fundraise during a pandemic to say thank you to Addenbrooke’s."
A Facebook group and Just Giving page have been set up for the challenge with daily updates of Mr Napolitano's progress, pictures of the various places he has virtually been to, free yoga sessions and Zwift group cycle rides at the weekends for anyone wanting to join him for a leg of the journey.
The yoga instructor has said he would like to cycle the 1,033 mile scenic route in person when the pandemic has eased.
On day 16 of his challenge, Mr Napolitano had cycled 843km with an elevation of 13,433 metres in just under 31 hours.
He said: "Physically it's difficult but the biggest challenge is mentally knowing what I have got to do. A lot of it is the mind with endurance when your body tells you to stop.”
Mrs Napolitano had been put on the organ waiting list after developing a long list of complications from Type 1 diabetes over the years resulting in a sudden drop in kidney function to below 20 per cent at the end of 2018.
Speaking about her condition, she said: "Type 1 diabetes is a hidden illness and episodes of poor diabetic control over the years causes so much unseen damage to your organs that when you see physical signs the damage is already done and often irreversible.”
While discussing dialysis options for the near future, the renal consultant at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital referred Mrs Napolitano to Addenbrooke's Hospital as a possible candidate for a kidney transplant to save the graphic designer from a life of dialysis.
Addenbrooke’s recommended to also have a pancreas at the same time to help control the diabetes to protect the donor kidney from further diabetic damage and prolong its life.
She added: “It was a hugely scary time for me but Addenbrooke’s were so supportive and reassuring from the initial assessment, going through all the risks and benefits, to the actual transplant operation and helping me through recovery. Addenbrooke’s Hospital offer lifesaving kidney, pancreas, liver and intestinal transplants to lots of areas of the UK.
"We are so grateful to have a leading transplant centre on our doorstep and now that I’m fully recovered and have seen just how much the transplant has improved my quality of life in more ways than I could have ever imagined, we’ve been wanting to give something back to help improve services to transplant patients and the hard working NHS staff.”
Currently more than £1,400 of the £3,000 fundraising target has been raised so far.
The couple said: "We would like to say thank you to everyone who has donated and supported the cause. The majority are friends and family but some are names we do not recognise and we are truly grateful for their support."
To find out more about the challenge and for updates visit www.facebook.com/LandsEndtoJohnOGroatsforAddenbrookes
And to donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/g5transplantward