Pig in Blanket

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mapMy Boxing day walk today was extremely tough, not because of the terrain or weather but because yesterday I became a my very own pig in blankets. My body desperately wanted to rest this morning and let yesterday’s excesses settle down but I forced the backpack on and set out on an 8 mile walk door to door. This was to be an emotional trip down memory lane.

When I was in heart failure and deteriorating, I worked in Warley in Essex for a waste company as a database clerk. Most of the time, I drove from my house to office in a clapped out Ford Sierra but on the odd occasion when the car was not working I would take the train from Billericay to Brentwood and walk half a mile from station to the office. On the surface, this probably seems quite an easy task but standing in my way was Warley Hill. I remember taking it in stages, stopping dozens of time to get my breath back, gritting my teeth as the muscles in my legs screamed at me to stop.

Today, as you might expect, I positively bounded up the hill. The only thing slowing me down today were the tears running down my cheeks as I remembered how I desperately wanted to carry as normal – shirt and tie on but gasping for breath every 50 yards. Why didn’t I get a taxi? Why didn’t I take the bus? I didn’t want to give in and I believe that the determination to carry on as best as I could helped me both mentally and physically when transplantation reared its head. Even in end stage heart failure, I went for a one mile dawdle around the block every lunchtime. “I want to keep doing this, while I still can” was a phrase that I constantly said to myself.

I passed my old work and my previous life came back to me. I worked with some lovely people at Cleanaway who watch me get worse day by day but didn’t ever wrap me in cotton wool. As I stood looking at the offices, I remember the time when I got locked in the men’s toilet. The lock had got stuck and I didn’t have the strength to open it. Five men and a screw driver later, I eventually was released and walked back to my seat red faced not through embarrassment but in anger. Angry that basic strength was being taken away from me as my cardiac output lessened. Sometimes at work, while we were all tapping away on keyboards staring at our monitors, I would suddenly take a sharp intake of breath and grip the desk for dear life as my heart went into arrhythmia. I would feel the room disappearing, my heart pounding and my hands and fingers in agony as I held on. Luckily for my, the spurts of SVT never lasted longer than 5-10 seconds and I never lost conciousness. As this bizarre and quite common ritual was happening, I could feel my boss Chris Miller’s eyes looking at me and when it was over we would look at each other, not knowing what to say. I would say that I was OK, he would ask if I was sure and I would nod. Both of us would then turn back to the meaningless data on the screen and try to forget it happened.We were all made redundant from Cleanaway as two head offices merged and on my last day there, I knew that would be my last job. Nine months later I went on the transplant list.

I don’t really celebrate Christmas. For me, the best gift I have ever received is inside me….beating constantly at 60bpm for seven and half years and I have never got stuck in a toilet since! What could be better than that?

Kieran xx

#atrailoftwohearts

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What a Poser!

 

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“Hero pose…hahaha!! “

 

Yesterday I went to Clacton-On-Sea to have a photo shoot for the BHF. This will enable posters to be made so that fundraising events and general noise can be made before my arrival around the coast. We have ambitious plans to stage hundreds of events around the coastline as I plod around with my rucksack. Press releases, radio interviews, local magazine articles and many other things will help to publicise these events and also to make people donate directly to the walk. I also met a real life long distance walker/adventurer by the name of Ivor.

The weather, once a gain was fabulous for the time of year. A bit chilly but I was happy to go topless if they wanted me too. Sadly, it wasn’t that sort of photo shoot but when Tim, Media Producer for the BHF, asked me to pose over the rocks, I did wonder where it all might lead. Luckily for all concerned the only clothing to come off was my waterproof jacket hiding my BHF top.

Accompanying Tim and I as we meandered along the coastline, where three BHF Fundraising Managers (FM) who’s help over the following months is going to be invaluable. Janet, who took these action shots, is FM for Hertfordshire and she will be co-coordinating me!! (a difficult task to say the least). Sophie is FM for Essex and she will be  the BHF’s first coastal FM for the walk and for my home county (no pressure, Sophie!) I also met Dawne who is FM for Suffolk and Norfolk and I will drift into her patch in mid February and will be going through one of my most favourite parts of the coast, Old Hunstanton. Marc is the FM for the East and with his amazing enthusiasm for the walk will make sure the fundraising done up the east coast will be the best!! (his words not mine)

It is really comforting to know I have these lovely people to turn to and to help me as I go round. I expect they will draw the line at washing my socks and smalls but they will be on hand to make sure I get a lot of great events and publicity around the coast.

8934379_14774053040_rIvor, pictured above talking to Sophie and Dawne (and now shaven) is an incredible man who has just finished a 2000 mile walk along the Appalachian Trail in America and raised thousands for the BHF. His trailname was ‘Stumbledwarf’, please google him and donate if you can. I gained some great advice from him as we wandered around and it was fabulous to speak to someone who has done such an incredibly difficult long distance walk. Have a look at his story here: https://www.gofundme.com/4qnszvmk

I like the idea of a trailname…..Any ideas? Please email me on the Contact form on the website.

Kieran xx

#atrailoftwohearts

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NoddingtheNickeyLine

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20161217_090346The Nickey line is a disused railway line which runs from Hemel Hempstead to Harpenden in Hertfordshire and is a very pleasant 7 mile, undulating walk. I walked it in dense fog which, as you can see by the photos made for an eerie but somewhat monotonous walk. I am sure in summer it is a glorious walk but I found the whole 16 mile round trip from door to door incredibly tough mentally.

When I trained for the London Marathon back in 2012 and 2014, I learnt many different pain distraction techniques and boredom controlling ones too. For this walk, I borrowed one from the legendary runner Paula Radcliffe who’s unique style of running came out of this technique. As she ran, she nodded her head all the time as though she was constantly checking that her shoe laces were done up. She was actually picking a point around ten foot in front of her, focusing on it and reeling it in until is was right up to her – then she would repeat this, sometimes counting footsteps. I managed to get through at least 5 miles of the walk this way. It’s not for everyone but it works for me. The Stone Roses, New Order, London Grammer and Portishead helped the rest of the way.

Stats
Nickey line walk : 16.78 miles 833ft elevation Rucksack weight : 18 years of medical notes CLICK HERE

In the last two weeks I have walked over 100 miles averaging 7 miles a day with a mixture of elevations, terrain and weather. The recent walks have been with my medical notes weighing me down and I am gradually getting used to the added weight. This is going to plan and I will increase the mileage gradually until February.

Kieran xx

#atrailoftwohearts

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A Dank Day

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eothChristmas Jumper Day!!!

I asked my new boots if they wanted to go and play in the mud today and they nearly ran out the door without me. After the last few days of pounding pavements, grunting up hills, crunching along leafy trails and squelching across wet grass, it was now time for these pampered walking boots to show me what they are made of. A 10 mile boggy walk in dank conditions.

I love the word dank. Here are some very danky pictures.

After my walk, I decided to cake my local coffee shop’s floor with mud whilst ordering a gorgeous coffee and walnut cake. Thank you “Elbows of the Table” in Old Hemel High Street for your coffee, hospitality and great cake.

I wonder if I should re-name this “A trail of too many cakes” because I am now looking for tea rooms I can finish at each day. I have recently heard of lady who has just completed her walk around the coast of Britain by being fuelled by cake alone. It would be an interesting idea to have lots of cake baking fundraisers along the coast and I could become Paul Hollywood each day. Given that I have a female heart, I could even be Mary Berry? Kieran’s Kakeathon? I can feel a clockwise walk coming along here starting February 2018 !!

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Coffee & Walnut cake….slurp

Anyway, back to the current (no cake pun intended) walk. I have a BHF coastal photoshoot on Tuesday 20th December in Clacton. If you are nearby and want to come and say “Hello” we will be along the prom until we have eaten too much ice-cream and made ourselves sick….well that’s my plan anyway.

I am off to the panto now (oh no you’re not) Oh yes I…ahem. Lots of interesting walks planned for the weekend in lovely Hertfordshire.

Kieran xx
(He’s behind you)

Kieran x

#atrailoftwohearts

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New boots…

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I’m not a trained cobbler or know anything about putting hoofs on horses but something recently has been telling me that I may have to get some new boots. The stones that are wedged in the holes have been propping up the structure quite well over the last few years…yes, I did say years. They were still working…just. I know you are smirking and shaking your head but for me,  it has been really hard to part with the best pair of walking boots I have have ever owned. So what if they leaked? So what if they squelched? So what if they didn’t grip very well? The were my trusted boots. It was indeed a sad moment when I walked my two friends, ‘lefty’ and ‘righty’ to the shops knowing that this would be the last time we mucked about together.

In the age of computers and statistics, I wish I knew how many miles were covered with these little beauties on my feet. How high did we go?  As I did their last walk on death row, I reminisced about the fun times and tough moments. I think they knew this was their last walk as they made a heartbraking squelching noise all the way along the road.They were was saying to me that they couldn’t Karrimor weight.

I felt for lefty and righty as they lay their on the floor of the shop, staring up at the rows and rows of brand new sturdy righties. After trying on six pairs, I settled on a pair of Merrells. This surprised me as I have always had Karrimors. So lefty and righty went in the new box and I walked my new merrels out of the shop, bouncing like a kangaroo on a trampoline.

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Kangaroo boots

I had a lovely email today from a friend who has a Beach Hut for me to stay in near Hunstanton. The more I think about that, the more I love the idea of sleeping right next to the sea. What a lovely sound to drift off to sleep with.

The rest of my day today was spent tinkering with website, writing sponsorship request emails and wondering how long my new bouncy boots will get to the stage of lefty and righty. How amazing would it be if I could do 5000 with my new friends. Now there’s a challenge

Kieran x

#atrailoftwohearts

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Walking with…medical notes

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My vow to blog everyday has failed within a week of starting so the phrase that summed up my 16 years of education comes back to bite me on the bum once more. “Must try harder.” The other phrase commonly used in my reports was “Kieran gets easily distracted and is often in a world of his own” I actually quite like that now. What was I dreaming about? Where was this world? Did I get to it? Am I still in it? Was I dreaming about walking 5000 miles around the coast of Britain as a charming and devastatingly handsome 46 year old man? (dreams are rarely accurate and children have wild imaginations)

I have been immensely busy over the last few days.  In case you don’t know, I have given up work (some might say it gave up on me – and some might say I didn’t work anyway!) to put all my efforts into this madness and I really don’t know how I would have fitted a full time job alongside planning this now. The walks are getting longer, higher, more regular and heavier. Not only am I 20161213_202824taking my medical notes for my old CHD heart, I am now putting the correspondence I received from my consultants and other bits and bobs in there too. Today, alongside the medical notes, I included about 30 anticoagulant therapy books from the 18 years that  I was taking warfarin, approximately 60 letters from out-patient appointments at the Brompton, 4 editions of GUCH News (now called Sommerville Foundation news), 3 kidney specialist letters, 2 pairs of gloves and a partridge in a pear tree.

There is something really comforting and satisfying about having my medical notes weighing me down as I walk.

I put that in quotes as I am still learning wordpress and fancied quoting myself. I don’t remember saying it out loud so its more of a thought quote. I presume I am allowed to do this by the blogging police? Is it very pretentious or just plain fun? Yeah, its fun!

Yeah, its fun

Stop quoting youself and get on with it!!!

So the last few days, I have done a 14 mile, a 6 mile with 500ft elevation, 8 miles with 600ft gain and a 10 miles today with 700ft gain. Here are a few pictures. We are having wonderful sunsets at the moment here at TOTH HQ….Ha! I’ve just made myself laugh typing that…..I might start calling it that from now on. Anyway the pics..

The donations are coming in so thank you to all the early birds, I really appreciate it and it does motivate me to do as much in this prep stage as humanly possible. News of my walk is now spreading in the Twittersfield and Scotland have “officially” accepted me across the border with open arms…which is nice. I would have crept in anyway. I am thinking about having some sort of ceremony as I cross in and out of the borders between England Scotland and Wales (and Essex). Suggestion welcome…

I have also been trying to find venues for fundraising events for the first few days of the walk. Having been born and brought up along the Thames Estuary (not literally)  it feels like this is my “patch” and want to do well. I am hoping that friends, family and locals will join me either at or near Barking (apt name for my first night eh?) or near my hometown of Stanford-Le -Hope for day 2 or  Leigh-On-Sea for day 3. Any Essex friends who can provide a venue for an event please email me. I am not talking about a barn in a field with acid music blaring like the old days. Maybe just a pub, function room or clubhouse? Though a barn in a field with 100 ft speakers does suddenly sound very exciting… Replace BHF with KLF?…..mmmm maybe not!

Tomorrow brings me hunting for new walking boots, a meeting with in London with gloriously charming people of the BHF (whose tea making skills could be improved if I am at liberty to say – joke….honest) and some other meetings where I hope to secure some more sponsorship and maybe even a campervan. eeek!

I will leave you with this gem.

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie is a beautiful book.

Kieran x

#atrailoftwohearts

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James Bond? Again?

20161210_093039Yesterday, 9th December 2016, I wanted to do another long walk just like my previous three training walks but this time I wanted to include a heavy rucksack. Looking around for some things to throw in the rucksack, I spotted my hospital notes from the Royal Brompton Hospital who looked after me from 1991 to 2008. A few years ago, I asked for my medical records from RBH as I had ran out of thrillers to read at home. This ended up as the saddest story I have ever read and was rapidly dis-guarded, just like my old heart. There was something quite lovely about carrying my old heart’s story on my back as my new heart powered me through 14 miles with no problems.

The walk from Hemel Hempstead old town to Northchurch, Nr Berkhamsted was mostly along the Grand Union Canal. Dog walkers,self walkers (like myself), joggers and houseboat owners are the usual frequenters of this beautiful area and all were polite, smiley, chatty and very relaxed. One hundred meters to the north, I watched stressed commuters gazing out of Virgin Media trains wishing that they were walking with us and fifty metres to the south, I heard enraged car drivers trying to gain ‘valuable’ seconds to there journey time. Sandwiched between these stressed lifeforms were human beings with happy dog faces and dogs with contented owner faces, joggers high on endorphines and ducks who generally never seem to be that bothered by man, bike, train or car. Of couse, the most laid back creature along the canal are the house boat owners themselves. Bless em 🙂

I reached the mid point, a gorgeous pub built in 1908 where I stopped for lunch and a pint of water. (and half Greene King IPA) The locals (7 men 14 pints and a dog) were discussing whether football or rugby is our national game. As a half Irishman, I tend to stay out of these discussions but on this occasion my agreement  with the  football arguers rather than the “eggchasers” went down very well and they offered to by me a pint. When they realised I was on tap water, they all wanted to buy me one. I retreated to a roaring fire and took off my clothes.

An erect sausage eventually arrived much to the delight of my schoolboy humour (see above) and I successfully made the 20 year old polish barmaid blush. (Well it had to be done)

The men were now talking about Donald Trump’s hairpiece and mixed with that, they were discussing that Bob (the one with dog) could now get his TV license for free as he was 75 years old. Old men in pubs are masters of bizarre conversations. When my backpack finally went on, Bob (the one with the dog) asked if I was Sean Connery. I looked at him and with great confusion managed to say the word “yes” much to the others amusement. I had no idea what they were talking about but left the pub hearing seven old men laughing loudly. A lovely sound. Any ideas?

A few months ago, whilst doing the filming for the BHF video on the homepage, two ten year old boys walked past and one said to the other

“What are they filming?”

“I dunno. Maybe the new James Bond” replied the other.

I think the two stories are interlinked. Hertfordshire wants me as the new Daniel Craig.

I walked back to Hemel with a spring in my step, two sausages and a bowl of mash in my stomach and The Stone Roses on my walkman. (its not actually a walkman, its not ipod, its an mp3 player I suppose you’d say but it will always be walkman to me)

The ballast tested me exactly how I wanted it to and maybe it was made a little easier knowing that in my rucksack was the verbal equivalent of my old heart life.

10th December Update

No injuries, head no bigger after potentially being called James Bond again. My legs the following day? Shaky but not stirred

Kieran x

#atrailoftwohearts

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