Rachel just finished the 2019 Aspire Channel Swim

Rachel signed up to the 2019 Aspire Channel Swim challenge but had to stop halfway through due to a sudden heart condition. However, she finally managed to finish the challenge in November 2020.

I decided to sign up to the 2019 Aspire Channel Swim because my little boy was three at the time and he was doing swimming lessons at a pool nearby. When he went for his lessons in the baby pool there was no one in the big pool and so, as I had a spare half hour, I decided to go for a swim too. Once he finished his lesson, we could have a wee play in the pool together.

I was enjoying swimming so much, so when I saw the Aspire Channel Swim challenge on Facebook I thought it would be great to do it to keep me going and have something to aim for. I find swimming relaxing and it clears my head. I also feel healthier and slim down when I swim regularly.

Rachel Patterson 3

One day in October 2019 - when I was about 12 miles into the challenge - I had been swimming one morning and by this time I had managed to build up to 64 lengths per session. After my swim, I went out for lunch with my partner and son and then we went to do a bit of shopping. In Asda in the crisp aisle I felt unwell and had to sit down. My partner got a first aider and they called an ambulance which took me to hospital. While there I suffered a heart attack, which at 43 years old and in fine health, was the last thing I expected.

I had suffered from SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) which is a rare heart condition that occurs suddenly with no warning, so I had to stop swimming to recover which was a great shame as I was really enjoying swimming and had never felt healthier than just before my heart attack.

Rachel Patterson Web

After rehab they advised I could swim again but to build it up slowly. I got back to the pool in February 2020 for a few weeks, but it was a struggle and I was frustrated that I couldn’t swim a mile each time, which I had built up to before. I went back to work in March 2020 and then at the end of March we all went into lockdown and pools were closed.

When the 2020 challenge started I was still completing the 2019 challenge but I was determined to finish it, which I finally did on 30th November. What was supposed to take 12 weeks took over 12 months!

I have never been great at asking people for money but once a few friends and family knew what I was doing, they were happy to offer sponsorship. At first the charity didn’t have much relevance to why I was doing the challenge, but after joining the Aspire Channel Swim Facebook group and reading people’s stories, it really spurred me on to do my best for the people it means a lot to.

With work, family and everyday life, sometimes it’s hard to find the time to go swimming, but I have now managed to get a good balance of everything. With all the current restrictions I will have to leave the 2020 challenge… but hopefully I will be able to do it in 2021.

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