Southwold nurse will endure loneliness and pain for a caring cause

As a community nurse, Cathy Ryan is used to working alone.

But she is preparing to endure loneliness and pain on a totally different scale – by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

As a community matron in north Suffolk, Cathy ensures that the elderly residents of Southwold, Reydon, Wangford, Walbersick and Wrentham are properly looked after in their own homes.

Working out of Southwold Surgery the 54-year-old carries out home visits and sees first hand what life living alone, when vulnerable, is like.

On September 13 she will travel to Tanzania to climb Africa's tallest mountain in a bid to raise at least �5,000 for the Southwold Surgery's carers fund.

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'I'm apprehensive, but excited,' said Ms Ryan, no stranger to fund-raising having completed the 60-mile Sandlings walk along the Suffolk coast and cycled across India for the charity she founded three years ago.

'I'm going on my own and the reason for that is because most of my patients live alone and they have to cope with loneliness and ill health on a daily basis, both of which I expect I'll experience.

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'They have to cope with putting their trust in other people to look after than. I will be with a six-man crew during the trek and I'll be doing them same when I essentially put my life in their hands.'

Ms Ryan, of Woodbridge, has been sticking to a tough training regime for six months. She walks at least five miles a day, upping that to 15 miles on a Saturday and 10 miles on a Sunday.

She is often joined by her three-year-old black Labrador Beth – as well as a back pack weighing 10kg in preparation for carrying equipment, including her beloved camera, during the climb.

She also attends the gym three times a week.

She said: 'The preparation is hard and you hear all kinds of stories about what to do and not do, but it's different for everyone.

'I've been doing a lot of walking; I've lived in my boots for the best part of a year. I'm actually more worried that my boots will wear out before I go.'

The money raised from the trip will help the York Road surgery pay for vital home care that is not currently covered on the NHS.

Through the charity, Ms Ryan has been able to support patients with 24 hour care when they would otherwise have to move into residential care.

'It pays for resources outside the NHS remit,' said Ms Ryan.

'For example, there was a lady in a wheelchair whose husband was her carer. When he was admitted to hospital she felt frightened to be at home alone overnight so we paid for someone to stay with her every night. It gave her huge comfort and ensured her husband wasn't worried either.'

The trek is expected to take between seven and nine days and Ms Ryan hopes, with the help of a solar panel powered mobile phone charger, to share her experience by writing an online diary.

• Anyone wishing to sponsor her is asked to send cheques to Southwold Surgery Carers Fund, c/o Cathy Ryan, York Road, Southwold, IP18 6AN.

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