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Abseil sisters-in-law have combined age of 150

09 April 2015


Daredevil great-gran Jacky Tong and her sister-in-law May Hamilton may have a combined age of 150 but they aren’t settling for the slippers and sofa just yet.

The dynamic duo are preparing to 'tackle the tower' - abseiling 10 storeys, or 154ft, down Southend Hospital's famous Tower Block on Saturday 16 May to raise money for the hospital.

It may sound daunting, but the latest challenge is just the latest in a line of age-defying jaunts for both 75-year-olds.

Jacky, a care worker, has trekked along the Great Wall of China, walked over the O2 dome, and completed the Colourthon half-marathon, all of which were done within the last five years.

"Tackling the tower was on my bucket list of things to do," she explains. "You can be 100% well one day and dead the next, so I've never been one for sitting down and watching the TV. I like a challenge."

Meanwhile, May, a Southend Hospital volunteer, raised £7,000 12 years ago by pushing her wheelchair-bound late husband Ken along the 54 piers of England and Wales in just two weeks.

The money went to Breathe Easy, a Southend Hospital associated charity, for which

May, a voluntary driver and information desk volunteer at Southend Hospital's Cardigan Wing, is a prolific fundraiser. Her husband died nine years ago of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Money raised from the abseil will go to Rochford Ward, treating patients with breathing difficulties.

The outspoken grandmother-of-one also took part in a Hadrian's Wall trek a couple of years ago but was unable to complete the entire route. However, she still managed to raise more than £1,000 for the British Heart Foundation.

"I just couldn't physically do it, so when I saw this come up I felt I could redeem myself," she explains. "I'm not that nervous about the abseil. But it's nice to know there's an ambulance waiting at the bottom!"

Jacky, who still works at Delaware House in Shoebury, looking after patients with final stage Alzheimer's (she successfully fought off retirement, even writing to then-PM Tony Blair, claiming age discrimination) will be raising money for cancer services at Southend Hospital.

Her husband Jim was treated for bladder cancer seven years ago and has been free of the disease ever since.

She says the couple's five grand-daughters, aged from 34 to 18, and three great-grandaughters aged between 11 and five, all think she is mad. "But they all say I'm a nan in a million so I must be doing something right," she smiles.

Are you up for the challenge?

The Tackle the Tower abseil challenge was first held last year and raised more than £10,000 for the wards or departments at Southend Hospital. The event runs from 10am to 4pm and spaces are still available.

Please call the department of fundraising on 01702 385337 or email fundraising@southend.nhs.uk.

Experience the excitement and adventure of last year's event below.