Chesterfield-based Shane Davis will set off from the Proact on Sunday on a 750-mile charity cycle ride after being given just a 10% chance of survival a year ago.
Shane, 42, fell seriously ill on the motorway after dropping his niece off in Bristol. His body had started to shut down, organ by organ, an effect of chronic and necrotising pancreatitis. This is where the pancreas, the organ that produces the enzymes that break down food and produces insulin, had started to digest itself.
It was just by chance that Shane happened to be a couple of miles away from Southmead Hospital, which was pretty much the best place he could have been for his condition. He was put on full life support and put in the deepest possible coma.
Recalling that fateful day, Shane says: “I had a rare day off work and decided I’d help my father-in-law out by dropping my niece off at her mum’s house. I was just leaving Bristol on the motorway and felt really ill there, so my middle daughter phoned me an ambulance and I collapsed on the hard shoulder.
“A lovely guy in a van pulled over to help me out and then two police cars and two paramedic vehicles arrived and they closed the motorway. I was rushed into hospital and two days later I was in a coma.”
Shane describes the seriousness of his condition, saying: “I had complete organ failure and I was on full life support for a month and on intensive care for another month. I had my heart re-started three times due to bad rhythm.
“They gave me a 10% chance of survival which led to them not having very high hopes at all, but here I am.
“The specialists told me it would be three months before I would even begin to walk again, but I took my first step in two weeks! That’s the rebel in me I suppose because I have never liked being told what I can and can’t do.”
Shane has suffered permanent damage to my body. He explains: “My pancreas is almost completely dead. It still produces insulin, but no longer produces the enzymes to break down the food in my body.
“I have to take Creon tablets every time I eat anything and my body is just about producing enough insulin to keep me alive.
“My brain wouldn’t go to sleep and converted all of the feelings of physio, needles and injections, pressure on my face from the clamp holding the tube down my throat and other things into the worst possible nightmares.
“As a result, I suffer from PTSD and have flashbacks of the dreams and have mood swings where I cry a lot and have trouble coming to terms with what has happened. I can’t sleep at night for fear of returning to this bad place and never coming back.”
Explaining the thinking behind his decision to take on the challenge he’s facing, the husband and father of five says: “I was trying to take my mind off of the negatives and focus more on the positives. I read one of Guy Martin’s books and he did the Tour Divide, which sparked some inspiration in me and I thought, ‘I want to be able to do that’.
“I thought that perhaps if I have something to aim for that’s going to keep me fit, then I might have a more positive outlook for myself. Perhaps 2,700 miles through the Rocky Mountains was a bit too much in a year’s time, so I brought it back to 750 miles.
“I will be bike packing so if I find a nice beauty spot I’ll be pitching my tent for the night and because it’s a solo bike ride not only will I be on my own but there will be no back-up.”
Shane will leave the Proact and then head west across the country, through the Peak District and on to Wales, covering as much of the coastline as possible, before going to Bristol to visit the hospital where his life was saved. He will then go to Hertfordshire to visit two of the other charities he is fundraising for before heading back to the Proact.
Shane admits that it is a daunting challenge. “There’s over 40,000 feet of elevation, which is where I’m climbing up a hill on my bike, so it’s going to be a big test for me,” he says.
“I’ve never really been an active person. I’ve had a lot of training but it’s not like other stories you hear of people being at it for years. I have only been training for a short amount of time.
“I have covered roughly 2,000 miles in the last nine months of training. The furthest I’ve covered is probably around 50 miles in one day.”
Setting a target of returning by July 16, which is his middle daughter’s 16th birthday, Shane says he will be a very proud person if he is able to achieve his goals. “I’m sure it will be an emotional day when I get back,” he adds.
“I am with a cycling club called Rother Valley Mountain Biking Club, who’ve supported me massively by donating bits of kit, so hopefully they can be there with my family to see me off and to see me home as well.”
Shane aims to raise £10,000, split between four charities, which have been carefully chosen to combine his widespread journey. “I chose four because I had only lived in Chesterfield for two months having relocated from Essex,” he explains. “I also wanted to help the ICU that saved my life. So I chose Southmead Hospital Charity, Therapeutic Hooves, Chesterfield FC Community Trust and Tiegan’s Star.
“Southmead Hospital will use the money to refurbish the overnight visitors rooms to make them a bit more comfortable, and relaxing for family members that are going through what my wife and children, my mum and dad and my friends went through.
“Therapeutic Hooves is a wonderful charity in Hertfordshire, where I was born, offering a wide range of therapeutic support options for physical, mental, emotional and behavioural additional needs.
“Tiegan’s Star is a trust set up in honour of a brave little girl who smiled all the way through her battle with leukaemia and tragically didn’t survive. They help others in need of support, offer gifts at Christmas to children hospitalised by similar conditions and help with nappies and clothes at the hospital.
“I’m also supporting Chesterfield FC Community Trust, which is a wonderful charity supporting the Chesterfield community through football. My middle daughter was a keen footballer and played for ten years from a young age, so I know only too well the benefits that football can bring to young kids.”
Shane would like to thank the following companies, organisations and individuals for their sponsorship/support:
XMiles Endurance Sports Store
The Angling Biker
Members of The Rother Valley Riders Mountain Biking Club
John Buley (personal trainer)