TWELVE months ago, a life-threatening heart defect left Ralph Swan barely able to walk a flight of stairs without being exhausted.
But now, almost a year after having open-heart surgery, the remarkable navy veteran has made a full recovery.
I feel like a new man. The operation has changed my life entirelyRalph Swan
And to celebrate his new lease of life, the 73-year-old completed a gruelling four-hour ‘spinathon’ and cycled almost 54 miles.
The effort was part of a Christmas fundraiser supported by members of Roko Health Club in Copnor Road, Copnor.
Ralph, of Hilsea, said: ‘It’s just been amazing.
‘When I think back to October or November last year I was out of breath walking up 18 sets of steps.
‘Now I feel like a new man. The operation has changed my life entirely.’
Ralph first noticed he had an issue with his heart almost a decade ago.
As the years passed his health began to decline until a check-up by consultants in November unveiled a major defect.
On Christmas Eve 2015, Ralph underwent a double bypass at Southampton General Hospital, with doctors fixing damaged valves and using a vein in his leg to create a new artery.
‘It was pretty urgent,’ he said. ‘But I was out of hospital in a few days and by April 8 I was back in the gym.’
Ralph, who was a police officer in the Royal Navy for about 40 years, has always enjoyed being active.
He signed up to Roko’s spinathon the moment he saw it, saying he was determined to celebrate his new vitality.
He tackled the event with about 20 other people – including his loving daughter Carole McCullagh, 52.
She said: ‘Seeing him today has been amazing and emotional.
‘He is an inspiration. In September last year he was a funny colour and his lips were going blue.
‘Now he has a whole new lease of life since his operation.’
The cycling event was organised by Antony Pink, who is a physical training instructor at Roko.
Those who took part did not donate cash but instead brought presents which will be donated to the children’s ward of Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham.
Antony said: ‘It’s been one of our biggest charity events yet. I can’t thank everyone who helped enough.’
Roko is running a Christmas Eve fitness boot camp in its newly kitted-out gym from 11am. To find out more about the event, call (023) 9265 1400.