A MAN who battled back from a potentially fatal blood condition and a bone marrow transplant will cap his return to health by joining a 578km fundraising bike ride with sports stars Lawrence Dallaglio and Freddie Flintoff.
Restaurant manager Simon Russell, 38, from Dalry, overcame aplastic anaemia and now hopes to raise £3000 by taking part in the Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam 2012. The two sportsmen will ride 1795 miles from Athens to London over 26 days, and will be joined en route by teams of extra riders. In all, they hope to raise a total of £2.012 million for charities the Dallaglio Foundation, the AF Foundation & Virgin Unite.
Mr Russell said he had been a keen sportsman in his teens, getting a rugby trial for Scotland Under 18s when he was 16 – but had to give up sports when he fell ill a few years later.
After he was treated for jaundice when he was 20, further blood tests revealed aplastic anaemia, which affects the production of red blood cells.
He said: “You feel really, really run down and you become very pale. Although it affects red blood cells the rest of the blood is also affected”
If left untreated, the condition can be fatal. Mr Russell received blood transfusions to give him a boost, but the condition persisted even after a five-day course of drugs at the ERI.
Doctors told him the only way to tackle it would be a bone marrow transplant, and fortunately his older brother, Kenneth, was a suitable donor. It was a difficult time, with the transplant preceded by aggressive chemotherapy. But the transplant worked, and he made a slow recovery.
Last year he decided to buy himself a bike. He found that he loved riding so much that he took part in the Pedal for Scotland challenge from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and is now riding up to 160 miles a week.
He was given the chance to take part in the Cycle Slam when his employers, Pizza Express, offered a number of places to its workers.
He will set off from Nancy in Northern France on May 15 with another 54 riders, including the two sports stars. They will travel via a route known as the “Hell of the North”, which runs for almost 100 miles over cobbled farm tracks and streets. After a brief rest on the Eurotunnel they will pedal to London and cross the line at the Olympic Stadium on May 18.