Clitheroe paramedic's Channel swim is liferaft for charities

A trio of blue lighters from Lancashire – emergency services personnel – is to attempt to swim the English Channel to support a quartet of charities closest to their hearts.
Clitheroe paramedic Andy BedfordClitheroe paramedic Andy Bedford
Clitheroe paramedic Andy Bedford

Paramedics Caroline Brady, (38), of Poulton-le-Fylde, and Andy Bedford, (45), of Clitheroe, will join Director of Resources for Lancashire Police Ian Cosh, (56), of St Michael’s on Wyre, to swim as a relay team.

They will make their weather dependent attempt on the 21-mile (33km) crossing from Dover to Cap Gris Nez in France, which must be undertaken without wearing a wetsuit, starting from Friday (September 13th) to September 20th.

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With more people having climbed Mount Everest than swum the Channel, the trio, none of which has ever attempted anything the likes of a Channel swim before, is hoping to raise around £20,000.

Whatever donation they achieve, it will be shared among the Lancashire and South Cumbria Motor Neurone Disease Care and Research Centre at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals’ Royal Preston Hospital, Brian House Children’s Hospice in Blackpool, the Lancashire Cardiac Centre at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, which provides care and treatment for heart patients from not only Lancashire, but also Cumbria and beyond, and the North West regional office of Parkinson’s UK.

Caroline said: “When I heard about the swim, I thought it would be a good challenge of both physical and mental strength, but my motivation for signing up was to honour the memory of two fantastic ladies that I met and cared for who had Motor Neurone Disease. They were brave, courageous and despite being fearful, fought until the end to continue their lives, enjoying their time with their loved ones.”

Colleague Andy also has first-hand experience of Parkinson’s Disease as his late dad suffered the illness while Ian has been a stalwart supporter of Brian House for many years.

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Both Ian and Caroline are coached by Bob Hudson, who runs adult swim classes, including open water and night-time adventure swimming, from Blackpool’s Palatine Leisure Centre. Bob’s father and brother died at a young age from a heart condition called aortic stenosis, which Bob was also discovered to be suffering from. It causes the heart’s aortic valve to narrow and stiffen due to a build up of calcium. Over time the valve fails to open and close properly, making it harder for the heart to pump blood out to the rest of the body. Bob had his aortic valve replaced at the cardiac centre.

Caroline said: “Bob feels indebted to the centre for saving his life.” Bob will be in the support boat throughout the swim. Joining him will be Andy’s wife Laura Bedford, who is also a paramedic, and colleague Helen McKenzie, who was a paramedic but now works in the ambulance control centre. Joining the trio in the water will be Mark Critchlow (58), of London. Mark, who served with the Metropolitan Police in the 1980s, was born blind in one eye and began losing his sight in his other eye in his thirties. He is now registered blind, but in 2017 was part of a relay squad that successfully completed a cross Channel swim and is in training for a solo attempt next year.

Caroline added: “Mark is our voice of experience. We are all worried about swimming in the dark, about the cold, changing tides and jellyfish. Sometimes, I think we must be mad, but then again, aren’t we all in our own way!”