Zero to hero – Jo’s fundraising story

Jo in her bike helmet and sunglasses

My journey with Deafblind UK started in 2017 when my daughter needed to learn a new skill for her Duke of Edinburgh Award and a friend suggested Deafblind Manual. We came along and met the team at Deafblind UK, including Doreen, who has been deafblind from birth and is the longest serving employee at Deafblind UK. She taught my daughter this fabulous new skill and I was hooked.

I started to learn more about how tough life can be for people with sight and hearing loss and it made me appreciate just how precious our own sight and hearing is.
When I found out that the team needs to raise £35,000 every week, just to keep doing the work that they do, I knew I wanted to help out. Even the smallest donation can make such a difference to someone facing the daily challenges of living with sight and hearing loss.

So, I decided on a triathlon – I don’t make things easy for myself! At this point, I didn’t even own a bike and hadn’t run for years, so I knew this would be a huge challenge. But I knew that being deafblind was a huge challenge for people every day, so I wanted to do this.

I started cycling with some people from my village (with whom I am now very good friends). They encouraged me to go further and further each week, digging deeper when I thought I wanted to give up. My husband recognised my struggle and bought me a new bike, which made the world of difference to what I could achieve.

Every Sunday saw me donning my padded shorts and going out cycling in all weathers. Once I was confident with this, I decided to tackle the swimming.
My daughters joined me and I was soon swimming 12 lengths every Tuesday and Thursday evening, so I was pleased with my progress.

I had left the worst till last – I’d never been a runner, I always thought it was something that I wasn’t built to do! I downloaded the ‘Couch to 5k’ app and off I went one Saturday morning, taking a route across the fields so that no-one witnessed my attempt! I couldn’t believe just how far 5km is! It took me about three months to get to where I needed to be. Then, I just needed to put all three disciplines together!

As the triathlon approached, I knew that I had to get my fundraising underway. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not the fittest and that this was a huge challenge. So, when I plead for sponsorship over Facebook and at work, I had a great response. Even the local MP sponsored me!

By the week before the event I had raised over £1,000 and was so pleased with my efforts. I was told that this could pay for 60 phone calls to people with sight and hearing loss, or 20 home visits – that made me feel so good!

On the Sunday before my triathlon, I went out for my last trial before the real thing. It was very wet, and sadly on my very last corner on the cycle ride, I hit a drain and came off my bike. I was flung into the road and my friends all stopped to help. I was taken to hospital and was told I had broken my collar bone! I didn’t want to miss the race or to let anyone down, but I had no choice but to pull out of the triathlon. I was devastated.

My fitness deteriorated as there isn’t much you can do with a broken bone! I was determined to get well and get back on my bike. It took a little longer than I thought, but by January I felt ready to start again.

I managed to defer my place to the triathlon in May and decided there was no stopping me this time! So, I trained and trained and spent many a lonely hour running, cycling and swimming, trying to get back to where I was.

Finally, on 6th May 2019 I proudly took up position at the poolside start line. I had done everything that I could to complete this, and felt that I was the best I was going to be. I was so nervous on the last bend of my cycle ride but I made it through, and before I knew it I was running for my life, checking my time, and I was so far ahead of where I thought I would be.

The best sight was the team from Deafblind UK willing me on, shaking their pom poms welcoming me back!

What I didn’t realise through all this, was that my collar bone hadn’t actually healed at all, and a few weeks after the triathlon I had to have a metal plate fitted and bone graphed. I think the sheer determination to support deafblind people got me through and knowing that whilst I experienced some discomfort for a short period of time, for people with sight and hearing loss the challenges they face are daily.

I would recommend to anyone to get involved with Deafblind UK, they are one charity that you can actually see your money making a difference and their support is second to none.

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