Giving back to her colleagues: Fiona’s virtual Urban Challenge

02 November 2020

Veteran Urban Challenger Fiona couldn’t stomach adding the annual fundraising event to the list of things she missed out on this year. Instead she joined the ranks of the virtual Guy’s Urban Legends so she could give back to her colleagues at Evelina London and Guy’s and St Thomas’.

Fiona, at each stage of her virtual urban challenge
Fiona, at each stage of her virtual urban challenge

Working through the pandemic

Fiona’s normal work routine flew out the window with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. As the IT Duty Operations Manager for Guy’s and St Thomas’, she experienced first-hand the immense pressure NHS key workers felt as everyone prepared to keep their patients safe during the first wave of the pandemic.

As cases started to spike, Fiona had to start taking on extra responsibilities to ensure that medical staff had all the necessary equipment that was vital to maintain their patients’ care.

“The demands on IT rose dramatically, and we all found ourselves stepping out of our normal activities to make sure the hospital could keep working,” she says.

But through all the extra pressures, one thing stood out to Fiona:

“It’s been so inspiring to see how everyone pulled together to mobilise and transform the hospital.”

Yet she knows that the hospital staff at Evelina London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ couldn’t have kept going through the pandemic without generous donations from supporters.

“Donors have been fantastic in supporting all areas where the staff needed a little extra help,” she says. “I’ve seen how difficult the situation has been inside the hospital, and how happy people were when they got some shopping. They didn’t have to worry about shortages and were able to receive some downtime in the wellbeing zones. I honestly think that the boost to wellbeing made a huge difference to help everyone keep going.”

Knowing the difference fundraising makes, Fiona knew she wanted to return the favour and give something back to everyone at Evelina London.

Fundraising at home

Fiona has completed Guy’s Urban Challenge twice before and loved the buzz the event created for the hospitals. So, when the change in seasons crept in unmarked by the strenuous training in preparation for the Urban Challenge, she felt something was missing.

“As September approached, I really missed the preparation for Guy’s Urban Challenge, so I just decided to go for the virtual event.”

Preparation and training during a pandemic was a tall task, but Fiona rose to the challenge.

“I’m not a regular runner, so I had a few trial runs to make sure 5km was not going to defeat me, and whenever I was in the office, I abandoned the lifts and took to the stairs. I’m lucky enough to have an exercise bike at home, so I made sure I was on that daily to get fit too.”

Then it was the day of the event. Although Fiona wasn’t used to completing the challenges without the company of fellow fundraisers, she adjusted to fundraising at home.

Taking on the Guy’s Urban Challenge remotely did come with some unexpected challenges though.

“On the biking stage I really missed the Watt bikes that are used, it took forever on my home exercise bike!” said Fiona.

In the absence of the Guy’s Hospital Tower, Fiona took to going up and down the two flights of stairs in her block of flats when it was time for the infamous stair climb. In support of her clinical colleagues and to make sure her challenge was safe for her and the neighbours, Fiona donned a face mask, adding an extra layer to an already gruelling challenge.

“It was nice and early so not many folks about, but having done what I had calculated to be a match for the height of Guy’s Tower, I discovered that my watch did not agree, so I wound up with an extra 10 sets of stairs to do,” she says.

But with the support of her friends and family via social media, Fiona finally crossed the finish line and celebrated her win with a cup of tea on her balcony.

“Although I really missed the atmosphere of the Urban Challenge at the hospital this year, it felt great doing a little something to help,” says Fiona. “I’ll be ready to go again next year virtual or otherwise!”

Do you have what it takes to become an Urban Legend? Although the event isn’t going ahead as usual this year, you can still make a difference to the Evelina London community. Sign up to the virtual event here.

Want to fundraise from home?

You can still support your hospital from the comfort of your own home, and we can help to get you started!