We met at University in York in 2001 where we both loved kayaking and spent most weekends throwing ourselves down the white water rivers of the North of England. When we weren’t in boats, we enjoyed skiing, badminton, squash and many other sports.
After graduating, Sarah became a Primary School Teacher in Leicestershire whilst Phil joined the Army, serving in Germany, the Falklands and Afghanistan. We both continued to love the outdoors and whenever possible spent time hillwalking, and rock climbing.
After getting married in 2009, we both quit our jobs to spend a year as volunteer teachers at a college in the poorest, most deprived region in Ethiopia. Our year in Gilgel Beles is the subject of our first blog.
A few weeks after getting back to the UK we headed off in another direction for a year travelling around Asia and the Pacific. We completed multi-day walks in the mountains of New Zealand and China, carrying all our own kit. We lived with nomadic families in Mongolia, we crossed Asia on the Trans Siberian Railway. We slept in open beach shacks and swam in jungle pools in Samoa. We trekked through rainforests in Malaysia. Our blogs, Down Under and Go East, chart the 12 months of this adventure.
After all this we returned to England, got jobs and bought a house. 5 months after moving into our house, Sarah tried to get up one morning and collapsed on the floor. She couldn’t get up and was struggling to breathe properly. Before this, we had no idea anything was wrong and had been going for 3 mile walks every evening exploring the countryside around our village. We called an ambulance and Sarah was admitted to hospital for a week before being sent home. They didn’t know what was the problem but couldn’t find anything. For the next 7 months, Sarah was unable to go to work and although there was no medical diagnosis, she tried everything we could think of to improve her abilities, with the longest walk she managed during that time being about 200m around the block. Most of the time, she could hardly walk from one room to the next. In September, her condition deteriorated and, one afternoon in October, Sarah’s mum was speaking on the phone and realised Sarah didn’t have enough breath to talk out loud. She called an ambulance and Sarah was admitted to the Horton Hospital again. After a week, a heart consultant had a brain wave and, after being transferred to the Oxford Heart Centre, she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension on 23 October 2013. Two days later she was transferred again, this time to the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, one of a handful of specialist centres in the UK that are able to treat the condition.
3 months later, with an aggressive program of drug treatment, we have seen some improvement.