Brighton orthopaedic surgeon Sam Weston-Simons is the first to admit that he’s not a natural athlete.
The 31-year-old registrar would even go so far as to say: “I was a fat lad!”
Mind you, he’s shifted quite a few pounds since then as he prepares for what has been described as the toughest race on earth – the Marathon des Sables.
The marathon, in April, involves running 151 miles in six days in the Sahara, carrying all your own food and kit.
What on earth would make a sensible young doctor do such a thing? After all, it’s not as if Dr Weston-Simons had even run a competitive marathon before.
He said: “I am running to raise funds for the Beit-Cure International Hospital in Malawi and the Malawi Burns Trust.
“In 2004, as part of my final year at medical school, I spent two months at the hospital. It made a lasting impression to the extent that I resolved to return when I had some training under my belt and could contribute.
“As a result, I returned as a volunteer for six months in 2010. It is a unique hospital. It provides free treatment to the children of Malawi and some surrounding countries.
“It is run by British orthopaedic surgeons and provides training for Malawian doctors and healthcare workers.
“The unit had undergone a number a changes since I was there but what remained was the absolute dedication of the staff to the highest quality and standards of care.
“As anyone who has done such a thing knows, I left having gained a huge amount more than I had ever hoped to contribute.
“It was a no-brainer that I would try and use this run to raise funds for the unit.
“I had talked about doing something like this for a number of years.
“It ultimately involved a bet, after a few drinks, that I wouldn’t do it. Such a bet is a like a red rag to a bull and so the dye was cast.
“The irony, having signed up three years in advance – apparently this event is popular! – is that the person in question had forgotten about the bet.”
Dr Weston-Simons, who lives in Kemp Town and works at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, said that at the Beit-Cure Hospital adults paid for their treatment so that children could be treated for free.
Despite this model of self-sufficiency the unit still relies on donations for 30 per cent of its costs.
In preparing himself for his fundraising challenge, Dr Weston-Simons has gone more than year without drinking and has been fitting in training runs around busy days at the Royal Sussex. Some of these involve 4am starts. Or he sets off on a long run after work in the dark, wearing a head torch.
Dr Weston-Simons said: “While in Malawi I became aware of the acute burns unit at the local government hospital. This was through the sheer volume of children I was seeing who had long-term consequences of burns.
“The Malawi Burns Charity is run by a group of Scottish plastic surgeons and provides training and facilities, such as a recently opened children’s high dependency unit.
“Even the smallest donation will make a significant difference to a child’s life. I am self-funding this misadventure and can promise that any donations will directly benefit the children.
“Just £35 covers a minor procedure while £10 will provide enough food for a patient and their guardian’s entire stay.
“I would love to raise somewhere in the region of £10,000 or £15,000. I’m only planning to do something this ridiculous once!”
Find out how to make a donation at www.samwestonsimonsmds.com.
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