Former Haywards Heath Swimming Club member Dr James Walker has completed his swim of the English Channel, reaching the French coast after 15 hours.
This morning (Thursday) his mum Marilyn, who lives in Ardingly, said: “The last hour was a real struggle but his girlfriend, Felicity, jumped in the water and swam beside him to give him encouragement.
“Aparently, he said to her ‘all I want is a cuddle!’, and she said ‘well, you’ll have to chase me for it!’
“You’re not allowed to touch the swimmer but you can speak to them and she did and she helped him for the last hour when the currents are really difficult, and he made it!”
Marilyn described how hard James’ challenge had been for the whole family including her, her husband, Don, and James’ sister, Beth Andrews, from Haywards Heath, who suffers from the auto-immune disease Lupus and for whom James embarked on the challenge, hoping to raise thousands for research into a cure.
Marilyn said: “It’s a truly staggering achievement to swim the Channel and a really raw experience. I’m very proud of him - he really is my hero.”
James learned to swim at Haywards Heath Swimming Club and now works as an A&E doctor in Manly, Australia.
Before moving to Australia he went to Balcombe Primary School, Warden Park in Cuckfield and Haywards Heath Sixth Form College followed by Cambridge University to do Law and Economics. Realising he was not cut out for law, James then went to Bristol University where he trained in medicine.
After a gruelling training schedule including cold water aclimatisation, James flew over to England earlier this month for his Channel challenge.
His motivation was Beth whose illness threatened her life last year when the lining of her heart became inflamed.
Her heart rate went up to 172 beats per minute and she needed emergency hospital care and a cocktail of 16 tablets.
Although Beth’s condition has stabilised, she has been experiencing eye-sight problems. It is not clear if her symptoms are side-effects from the strong drugs she needs or are due to Lupus.
Beth lives with husband, Ben, and children, Lily, Freddie and Belle in Harlands Road, Haywards Heath. She knows just how remarkable James’ Channel swim was, recalling that he never made it into the top, competitive swimming squad at club level.
Beth said: “James is amazing and really likes challenges. He has been an Iron Man but swimming was never his strongest sport.”
Before setting off on his endurance swim, James said: “My aim is to raise some money in the hope that I can contribute just a little to making the lives of people like my sister, Beth, a bit easier.”
If you would like to sponsor James you can do so via james walker