Cycling to say thank you

We’d like to congratulate and give thanks to Gary Colet, who has completed a second fundraiser in aid of the Royal Free Charity. Together with friend Jeff Ward, from Mill Hill in north west London, he cycled 52.4 miles – the distance of the London to Brighton cycle ride – in Hertfordshire, due to COVID restrictions, all to raise money for the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Barnet Hospital.

The friends took on the fundraiser to thank staff at Barnet Hospital for caring for Gary after he contracted COVID-19, and the Cancer Centre at Guy’s, for treating Jeff’s rare form of skin cancer.

Gary’s story

In March 2020, Gary Colet contracted COVID-19 and was admitted to Barnet Hospital, remaining there for the next three months including five weeks on a ventilator.

On returning home, Gary had lost a third of his body weight. Recovery was gruelling, but by getting back to his passion of cycling, and encouraged by his neighbour, he started to gain strength.

“My recovery is now progressing much faster than anyone expected, including me,” said Gary. “It was really tough, mentally as well as physically, to adhere to my rigorous exercise regime. I can now eat normally and have put back on 22 of the 25 kilos I lost and feel really well.

“I continue to have breathing problems from lung fibrosis and it has taken nearly a year to get partial feeling back in my feet. None of this has stopped me doing anything and I am now cycling about 150 miles per week. I’ve also restarted mountain biking.  I feel lucky to have emerged a stronger person having experienced the worst that Covid-19 can do to the human body.”

He said that he and his wife had wanted to do something immediately on his discharge to thank the staff on the ICU at Barnet and donated £3,000 for an information mural for patients.

Gary pointed out that training with Jeff had made all the difference, especially on days when it was harder to get going. “Having that commitment and encouragement from a riding buddy has been so helpful. On many occasions Jeff disappeared up Barnet Hill, while I crawled slowly up, breathing hard but refusing to get off.  Over time, I got fitter and Jeff’s chemotherapy has kicked-in. So now it’s my turn to be a motivator.”

Saturday 17 April saw Gary arrive at Barnet Hospital, after his long cycle, welcomed by rapturous applause from staff.

You can donate to Gary’s fund here.