‘Not a week goes by when I don't think about the incredible team who saved Nick’s life.’

Sunday the 12th of February 2012 is a date that Alexandra Williams will never forget.

Her husband Nick felt unwell and a call to their local GP confirmed that something was seriously wrong.

The ambulance ride was the beginning of a journey that led to the family knowing far more about the workings of the heart - and the workings of a hospital - than most.

This February, Alexandra marked ten years since Nick’s operation by tracing the 27 mile route the ambulance took from her home to the Heart Centre at the JR.

Alexandra, pictured back in 2013 with members of the Heart Centre team, is on track to raise a further £45,000; she tells us why:

Alexandra's story

'Ten years ago, a desperate ambulance ride took us from our home in Thenford, near Banbury, to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

And as we said our goodbyes to Nick before the surgery, I had to tell our then 12-year-old daughter, who was with us at the hospital, that her daddy might die.

Aortic dissection of the heart has such a high mortality rate and sadly is often misdiagnosed, so most people in his situation never even make it to the operating table.

We were clinging on to hope. I remember looking at his belongings, tied up in an NHS bag under a chair, and thinking: this could be it. It’s your worst nightmare.

The complex operation lasted eight and a half hours and his life hung in the balance. But thanks to the amazing NHS facilities here on our doorstep, and the incredible skills of the surgeon and team, we still have Nick in our lives.

At the time, overwhelmed with gratitude, we raised nearly £80,000 for the Heartfelt Appeal – helping to create the wonderful new cardiac out-patients’ area. Ten years on, the emotions are still close and I wanted to do something to celebrate and support the hospitals again.

I have a bad back and had hip surgery as a child, so I’m not exactly a gym bunny, but I can walk, so I decided to walk to Oxford. It took months of training, but this February I completed my walking marathon – 27 miles in one day from my home to the JR.

I set off at 7am, roughly following the route the ambulance had taken from our front door to the hospital entrance. It was an absolutely horrid day – with driving rain throughout much of the walk – but I was spurred on by the memory of the team that saved Nick’s life.

This was my chance to say thank you again, and to fund more important equipment that I know will help other families when they need it most.

Arriving at the hospital at 5pm, to be greeted by some of the charity, family and friends and Sandra, one of the nursing team who had been by our side all those years ago, was just incredible. The aches, pains and blisters were all worthwhile.

Lucy Budget, Head of Major Gifts at Oxford Hospitals Charity, said: ‘Alexandra’s amazing fundraising  years ago meant so much to staff at the Oxford Heart Centre, and helped us to make huge improvements for patients.

‘It’s just extraordinary that ten years on she has gone on to raise a further £46,000. We are full of admiration and gratitude for her continued support which will fund a portable ultrasound as well as a new anaesthetic machine for the department. Some 3,000 patients a year will benefit from this new equipment, as will the busy hospital teams involved in their care.’

If you would like to support these incredible efforts please click here

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