Oxford Hospitals Charity is celebrating its most successful abseil ever, with over 240 people taking part in the 100ft challenge this weekend.

Teams of hospital staff, families, former patients, local councillors and companies were all on the ropes at the John Radcliffe – braving the rain and wind throughout the weekend.

The Great Big Hospital Abseil has already raised over £55,000, with money still coming in for wards and departments across the John Radcliffe, Churchill, Horton General and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

Gail Williams, Events Manager for Oxford Hospitals Charity, said: ‘We are still reeling from the weekend – it was simply fantastic. The weather was shocking at times, but everyone still turned up and gave it their best shot.’

‘These abseils have been running for over 15 years and this was our biggest yet, with over 240 people taking part. The event has already smashed last year’s fundraising total – and I think we are likely to raise well over £60,000 when everything comes in – which is brilliant.’

‘There were so many incredible people taking part and some very emotional moments as people conquered their fears and remembered loved ones.

‘It was also wonderful to have so many teams of staff from across our hospitals taking part including nurses, consultants, physiotherapists and lab technicians.

First to come down the 100ft wall at the John Radcliffe was Alex Postan, District Councillor for Brize Norton and Shilton.

Alex, who uses a wheelchair, has osteoporosis, a neurological disorder and has been treated for bowel cancer.

He said:  ‘I have been treated by all the Oxford hospitals so it was great to say thank you and give a little back.’

Alex has a background in motorsports, and was determined that his wheelchair wouldn’t stop him taking part. He explained:  ‘You only live once so it is important to keep challenging yourself.’

The seventy year old has raised over £2,000 for the stomatherapy team at the NHS Trust. He said: ‘I wanted the stoma team to get my sponsorship because they can be a bit overlooked and some people think it is all a bit taboo – but they really are a lifeline.’

Alex abseiled alongside leader of Oxford City Council, Susan Brown, leader of West Oxfordshire District council, James Mills and Oxfordshire County Councillor, Liam Walker.

The oldest abseiler across the weekend was 86 year old Michael Hamlet from Kennington, who abseiled in support of the Oxford Heart Centre and the Medical Assessment Unit at the John Radcliffe.

It was the fifth time in ten years that Michael has abseiled for Oxford Hospitals Charity, and he hasn’t ruled out taking on the challenge again.

Moments after the abseil he said: ‘I like to be able to give something back to the medical areas that have helped me, it’s good to say thank you because they’ve looked after me so well. I wasn’t that scared, and I enjoyed it, so hopefully if I’m still here, I’ll be fit enough to do it all again next year.’

Michael, who used to be a carpenter, was watched by his family including his eleven year old great grand-daughter, Taylor Hamlet. She said:

‘My great granddad isn’t like other grandads – he’s really special and really brave. I am so proud of him for doing the hospital abseil.’

Kathryn Whitby and a group of friends raised nearly £5,000 for the Children’s Hospital, in memory of her twin daughters, Angel and Imogen.

Kathryn, who comes from Middleton Cheney, near Banbury, explained: ‘Angel died during the pregnancy at 31 weeks, which was absolutely devastating.

Then our beautiful daughter Immy had a brain tumour. She was cared for at the Oxford Children’s Hospital where we were astounded by the levels of care and compassion we encountered at every turn.’

‘Immy was the bravest person I have ever met. Her courage was incredible. While having treatment and living in the hospital she used to keep pointing to the poster of the annual hospital abseil. After a while I asked her why she kept doing this and somehow ended up promising her I would do the abseil for her - then she gave me her amazing smile.’

Immy passed away early in 2017, aged two. Kathryn was determined to keep her promise to her little girl, despite being petrified of heights.

She abseiled with a group of friends who have supported her through the loss of Immy and Angel.

‘I can’t even normally go up a ladder I am so scared of heights – so this was truly terrifying. But there was something very special about abseiling where both my girls were born and where we have so many memories. But I really needed my friends’ support – they were amazing.’

‘Once I got down the wall it really hit me what I had done and that I had kept my promise to Immy. We are determined to create a real legacy for our beautiful daughters and to give something back to the incredible staff who have helped us so much in the worst of times.’

The 240 abseilers for Oxford Hospitals Charity also included teams of staff from across the hospitals including Children’s Critical Care, the Eye Hospital, Neurology, Ambulatory Assessment Unit and Stroke Unit,  as well Abingdon Lions and local companies Unipart, Oxfordshire Personal Training, British Gas and Kingerlee.

A huge thank you to everyone who took part in this very special event. 

Keep an eye out for next years abseil!

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