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"I’m living proof why Southend needs the new keyhole surgery theatre"

13 March 2014


As AW80D reaches 10,000 miles and £10,000 – hospital volunteer Clair urges people to support fundraising initiative.

Talk to Clair Gray and you wouldn't know she is still recovering from having surgery in November (2013). The lively 41-year old from Great Wakering is in the full bloom of health - but her situation could have been quite different. 

The popular 'Friends and Family' volunteer at Southend Hospital suffered from endometriosis. This is a common condition in women and girls - where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb (the endometrium) is found outside the womb - and ultimately led to Clair having a hysterectomy in January 2013.

"Because my endometriosis was so bad, a procedure to remove the womb had led to my bowel being torn. I was recovering from my operation when I developed anaphylactic shock. A consequence of that, was that I required a stoma procedure (more frequently known as a colostomy, in which a section of the large intestine (colon) is diverted by surgery through an opening in the stomach), which was quite unusual for someone of my age and with my particular circumstances." 

As Clair began to adjust to life with the stoma, it was a conversation with surgeon Miss Esther Fine that gave her fresh hope for a better solution. 

"She told me that she felt that by using laparoscopy, rather than open surgery, she could reattach my bowel. Previously, I'd had to have an incision from my belly button to my public bone, so the keyhole procedure was less invasive and offered an almost complete chance of a full recovery. I was so nervous before my second operation but Miss Fine reassured me, and she was right. She and her team were great and the operation proved to be the best thing I've done. I was only in hospital for four days and although I'm still recovering, I'm back to volunteering, which I love." 

Clair - who is married to husband Alex and is mum to two teenage sons, Jacob (13) and Joshua (19) - added: "The reversal procedure will aid my recovery overall and it is important that Southend Hospital can offer faster recovery times, enabling busy people to get back on their feet and on with their lives a lot quicker." 

To help people like Clair and many more besides, with a wide range of medical needs, Southend Hospital recently launched an appeal to raise £600,000 for a new state-of-the-art keyhole theatre. The new facility will increase the quality and quantity of a wide variety of the surgery performed at Southend University Hospital. 

The first initiative to generate the cash is AW80D. Inspired by Jules Verne's epic 'Around the World in Eighty Days' tale, it's taking five bicycles around Essex and asking individuals or groups of friends to raise some money and cycle the equivalent of sixty miles to achieve a target of 24,901.55 miles, or the circumference of the globe. 

Launched on 1 February 2014, over 10,000 miles has been accomplished already, raising £10,000 en route. 

"I think it is amazing,"says Clair. "Unfortunately, I can't cycle at the moment but I really want to get stuck into helping raise funds and creating further awareness. Creating a high-tech operating theatre for people who require minimally invasive surgery at Southend Hospital will be of huge benefit to residents of the area and because laparoscopy isn't widely known about, this is a really important campaign." 

To get involved in AW80D, visit www.sh-cf.org or contact the Southend Hospital Fundraising team on 01702 385337 or fundraising@southend.nhs.uk