A GRANDFATHER who struggled to walk following heart problems has completed a charity trek to the hospital where he had a life saving operation, raising over £1,500 for the British Heart Foundation.

Bradford's Graham Royston visited his GP after suffering chest pain whilst cycling to work in 2017. He underwent various tests at hospital before being diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

Scans revealed that four arteries in Graham’s heart were narrowed, so he required quadruple heart bypass surgery at Leeds General Infirmary. He was also fitted with a pacemaker, which treats abnormal heart rhythms.

Following his operation, the now-retired process worker from West Bowling remained in hospital for almost three months. Aged 66 at the time, Graham then had to give up work - and found the road to recovery tough.

“Even getting myself into the shower felt like I had done a workout at the gym,” said Graham, now aged 69.

“I was shocked to find out I had heart problems as I’d been keeping myself fit and healthy – my diet has always been good, I’d been exercising by cycling and walking to work and I’d also given up smoking almost 30 years ago. I was told there could be a family history as my brother died from a heart attack and various other relatives have also been diagnosed with heart problems.

“I found it hard after the operation. I’d lost my sense of taste and smell so any food or drink I tasted was foul and at one point I needed to go on a drip. I’d also get exhausted after short walks around the ward and hospital garden.

“But I received outstanding care by the nurses at Leeds General Infirmary and was slowly able to build my strength back up through cardiac rehabilitation at the hospital.”

After being discharged from hospital, Graham – a dad of five and grandfather of 14 - continued cardiac rehabilitation and slowly built up his walking distance.

At first, he set himself the challenge of walking to the end of his street, and gradually increased the distance over the years so he could walk a quarter of a mile to his local corner shop to buy a newspaper.

Thankful for the care he had received, Graham set himself the challenge of walking to Leeds General Infirmary and back. He decided to raise the money for the BHF as had received information and advice from the charity during his recovery.

Whilst training for the walk, Graham received support from neighbour Kiki King.

Kiki, aged 51, said: “Graham had a long road to recovery, but was really committed to achieving his goal.

“I set out a 12-week training programme where we would go out for walks together and would slowly increase the distance at Graham’s own pace. We started going further and even managed to walk into town. He got to grips with it really well and from there, there was no stopping him.”

Soon enough, Graham was able to walk a far enough distance and – joined by his son Andrew, nephews Mark, Marc and Steven, Kiki and her husband Joe and friends Tracy and Dave Chatterton – he managed to complete the 20-mile route there and back on 18 July.

The walk was also held in memory of friend Nigel Hanson.

So far, Graham has raised over £1,500, which will help the BHF to continue to fund vital research into all heart and circulatory diseases, including heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia and their risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

“It was great to complete the walk, although it was quite tiring,” said Graham, who has been married to wife Janet for 44 years.

“After arriving at the hospital, I handed over a gift for the nurses to show my gratitude for the care they had given me. When we arrived back home, Kiki had also arranged an outdoor party with food and drink so we could all toast our success.

“It’s amazing that the money I’ve raised will help the BHF fund its vital research into heart and circulatory diseases.”

In Bradford alone, there are an estimated 58,400 people living with a heart or circulatory disease. These conditions claim around 1,200 lives in the city each year.

Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the BHF’s investment in new research into preventions, cures and treatments for these conditions could drop by half this year.

Jodie Shepherd, Area Fundraising Manager at the BHF, said: “We’re so grateful to Graham, along with his friends and family, for taking on this ambitious challenge to raise money for the BHF.

“Our life saving research is fuelled by the generous donations of the public, but the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means that our investment in new research could fall by £50 million this year.

“That’s why we need the support of the public to back the BHF now, more than ever.”

To donate to Graham’s fundraiser, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/christine-king9