Doctor swims the Channel to help his sister

Beth with her family
Beth with her family

Swimming was never James Walker’s strongest sport but he is showing supreme physical effort by swimming the Channel next month.

He is pushing himself to the limit for his younger sister, Beth Andrews, from Harlands Road, Haywards Heath who suffers from an auto-immune disease called Lupus.

James, 33, who learned how to swim with Haywards Heath Swimming Club, now works in Manly, Australia and is fitting his training round long hours as a hospital doctor.

Beth said: “There is no cure for Lupus and James is swimming to raise money for research into the illness and to raise awareness because Lupus is quite hard to diagnose.”

Beth’s symptoms started after her youngest child, Belle, was born two years ago.

“I had extreme fatigue, with really bad pains in my shoulders and hips and mouth ulcers,” said Beth, who is a very busy mum with Belle to look after and twins, Freddie and Lily, aged four.

Last year, the illness threatened her life when the lining of her heart became inflamed.

“My heart rate went up to 172 beats per minute and I was admitted to the Princess Royal Hospital. It was the worst time of my life,” recalled Beth who needed to take a cocktail of 16 tablets.

Beth’s condition has stabilised but she is experiencing eyesight problems at the moment. It not clear if her symptoms are the side-effects from the strong drugs she is taking or due to Lupus.

James is fitting his training round long hours working as an A&E doctor and tries to swim at least 50 kilometres a week.

He has a one week window from September 24 to October 3 to swim the Channel before the weather closes in.

In a break from his gruelling training, 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.

“Beth has been pretty sick - the nature of the illness is that you always have something wrong with you.”

Beth, 29, who, like James, swam with Haywards Heath Swimming Club, has to pace herself in everything she does.

She said: “James is amazing and really likes challenges. He has been an Iron Man but swimming was not his strongest sport.”

Beth also thanked her husband, Ben, and her parents, Marilyn and Don Walker from Ardingly.

“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” she said.

You can sponsor James