A man who developed septic arthritis shortly after birth is defying medical odds to cycle 2,000 miles to Rome - without sitting on the saddle.
The disease caused Phil Bowers, now 30, to have long-term damage to his joints. He has a limp, restricted movement and daily pain.
But rather than feel sorry for himself, the former Sharnbrook schoolboy has planned the epic four month long ride to raise awareness of how arthritis can strike young people and also raise funds to help them.
The challenge will be even more difficult for him because his damaged hip means he can only pedal while standing up.
“I will have to set modest targets for the distances I cycle each day,” said Phil, who plans to start the trip in Bath because of its healing spa waters and also the fact that it is the base for the world renowned Royal National hospital for Rheumatic Diseases.
He will set off on June 24, his 31st birthday, and aims to reach Rome by October 24, World Arthritis Day.
“It seems appropriate to end my journey in Rome, which also has a number of restorative thermal springs,” he said.
He and members of his family, who will follow him in a support vehicle, have raised the money for the trip themselves.
All the cash raised will go to Arthritis Research UK and the Children’s Chromic Arthritis Association.
Phil, whose disease started in his fingers just after he was born at Bedford North Wing, says people are often surprised to hear that people can suffer from arthritis from such a young age.
“This is why I am keen to raise awareness of this condition and other forms of arthritis. I want to help the large numbers of young people who will need support throughout their lives,” he said.
Every year in the UK an estimated 9,000 youngsters under 16 develop some form of arthritis.
Half of them will suffer from a rheumatic disorder while the others will have painful inflammatory arthritis, said Phil, who has undergone major surgery in a bid to improve the function and mobility of his own arthritic hip.
You can support or sponsor Phil through his website www.bathtorome.co.uk by emailing him on Phil@bathtorome.co.uk