Norwich surgeon’s Tour de France challenge

A Norwich surgeon is preparing to undertake a gruelling cycle ride which will see him tackling one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France in aid of his spinal charity fund.

The L'Etape du Tour was established in 1993 to allow amateur cyclists to test their legs on a stage of the famous cycle race, and on Sunday consultant orthopaedic and spinal surgeon Am Rai will attempt a 152-km-long trek, which includes four physically demanding climbs in the heart of the Alps.

Mr Rai, 46, is appealing for people to sponsor the ride and help raise money for Spine Aid, the charity fund he established to treat disadvantaged patients in the developing world who have severe spinal problems and disabilities.

The father-of-two, who will be joined on the ride by fellow consultant Dr Graham Hurst and friend Ian Brown, said: 'It's eight to 10 hours on a bike, climbing 4,500m, but I've been training for four months. The biggest issue for me is failing.'

With so few hills to train on in Norfolk, Mr Rai recently took part in a bike ride around Dartmoor, raising money for a garden at a spinal injuries centre in memory of Horatio Chapple, a 17-year-old killed in a polar bear attack in Norway last year and who was the son of a spinal surgeon acquaintance of Mr Rai.

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The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Spire Norwich Hospital consultant is planning to travel to Zambia in October, taking colleages from Bristol and Addenbrooke's with him to operate on several children as well as educate local doctors and surgeons about spinal conditions, treatment and surgery.

Zambia has a population around 13m people, but only three or four spinal surgeons for the whole country. In contrast, the N&N itself has three for a catchment of around 700,000 people.

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All money donated to Spine Aid directly funds patient treatment, who are predominantly children. The charity provides nutrition, transport and medical equipment. Recent purchases include an operating table, spinal equipment and anaesthetic gases. It also pays to provide two eggs per child per day while in hospital to give adequate nutrition and aid a speedy recovery.

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