2 November 2023

200-mile cycle ride for children’s hospital

Joe Leonard cycled 200 miles from Plymouth to Newbury in support of Southampton Children’s Hospital following his daughter’s emergency surgery to save her life.

“In January, Sienna, 6, started complaining about her stomach and legs hurting, as this was the weekend, we called 111 and saw the out of hours GP.

My wife, Amanda, and I were told to monitor her over the next 24 hours, but she didn’t show any signs of improvement. Her condition worsened, and we called 999 who took her by ambulance to the emergency department at Basingstoke Hospital.

Sienna was then transferred by ambulance to Southampton Children’s Hospital for specialist care at 1.00am on the Sunday morning.

Doctors diagnosed her with a bowel intussusception (where the bowel moves inside itself) caused by a disease called Henoch-Schönlein Purpura (HSP). The HSP had caused Sienna’s blood vessels to become irritated and swollen, closing off her intestines as an immune response as well as secondary swelling of the leg joints meaning she could no longer walk.

They immediately prepared her for emergency surgery. By 3.00am, the surgeons were operating on her stomach to remove her bowel and straighten it out. While the prospect of emergency surgery is every parent’s worst nightmare, the staff at Southampton hospital were amazing.

Following the surgery, Sienna remained on the High Dependency Unit for 12 days while the doctors worked to stop the HSP from reclosing her intestines and she recovered from the surgery. The compassion, support, and reassurance they showed us will stay with us forever.

While in hospital you see all the additional work the staff do to help the children. The play team came around with craft activities for children to do while confined to their beds, and there was even a playroom.

Once we were discharged, Sienna still had the remaining complications from the HSP and required a wheelchair to move around until the swelling finally subsided and she could begin to get her strength back. She still had to have many trips to Southampton Children’s Hospital, but the specialists were always helpful and kind.

My challenge

I am an engineer by trade, so I love challenges and I really wanted to show my support for the hospital after all they did for us. This year following Sienna’s diagnosis and treatment, I wanted to really challenge myself, so I planned a solo 200-mile ride in support of Southampton Hospitals Charity.

Previously the most I’d ever cycled has been a supported 100 miles, and that was a real challenge, so I tried to increase my training this time.

In the end the route covered 200 miles over the south west of England, climbing over 3,350 metres. I started the first day at the Plymouth Naval Memorial, before heading 111 miles north through Dartmoor with an overnight stop in Weston-Super-Mare. On day two I continued 90 miles though Bristol past Swindon and Marlborough, before getting home to Newbury after more than 17 hours riding.

It was a really hard ride, but I was so proud when I arrived home and was greeted by Sienna! She reminded me why I was doing the challenge.

We’ve raised a staggering £1,730, which will help future patients at Southampton Children’s Hospital.

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