News: Churchill Fellow takes on climb to raise funds for NHS

Published: 12 Oct 2020

News: Churchill Fellow takes on climb to raise funds for NHS

Churchill Fellow Robin Hanbury-Tenison (CF 1971) has climbed Cornwall’s highest summit in a bid to raise funds for the NHS - just five months after recovering from severe Covid-19.

"Taken by the nurses, my guardian angels, to Derriford’s rehabilitation garden, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and I knew that I would live." - Robin Hanbury-Tenison, Fellow

Robin, a distinguished explorer aged 84, was rushed into the intensive care unit of Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital in March, after contracting Covid-19. His condition was severe and his family was told that he had less than a 5% chance of survival. Robin spent five weeks in a coma and experienced multiple organ failure and severe sedation delirium. A key milestone in his recovery came when nurses took him to Derriford’s rehabilitation garden situated in the hospital grounds.

“When all hope was lost, when family and friends feared the worst, I had a breakthrough moment. Taken by the nurses, my guardian angels, to Derriford’s rehabilitation garden, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and I knew that I would live. Nature does make a difference. I think every hospital should have a healing garden. I believe this one saved my life,” says Robin.

Having overcome the virus, Robin is now keen to ensure that as many patients as possible can experience the healing powers of fresh air and nature. When Robin was discharged from hospital, he was using a zimmer frame and was hardly able to walk. However, he was determined to take on the 1,378-foot summit of Brown Willy, on Bodmin Moor, to raise funds for more NHS garden spaces. Robin will use the money donated to help Treliske Hospital in Truro to create their own garden, and to ensure that Derriford’s rehabilitation garden can upgrade its garden.

On the day of the climb, Robin encountered stormy conditions and 60mph winds. However, with the help of his friends and family, he was able to reach the top and complete his mission. So far, Robin has raised £42,000 of his £100,000 target, which will prove invaluable in ensuring others can access outside space as part of their hospital care. Robin hopes this will promote the wider concept that all hospitals with intensive care units should have access to healing gardens.

Robin (centre) climbed the highest summit in Cornwall, Brown Willy, with the help of friends and family (photograph taken by Cat Vinton)

Robin’s wife, Louella, accompanied him on his venture and says: “It is more than wonderful to have him back in good health - and thank you NHS and Derriford Hospital. We found about 50 people had climbed Brown Willy to be with us in social bubbles of six, including Kate Tantam, the wonderful specialist sister ICU rehabilitation nurse who created the healing garden at Derriford.”

Donate to Robin’s GoFundMe page