A group of eight intrepid swimmers have ‘seas-ed’ the day after taking on a channel relay swim and raising over £16,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.  

The band of swimming buddies, who met at a swim group based at Chasewater, split into two groups and joined the waiting list to take on the monumental challenge of swimming the 22-mile distance across the English Channel. Group founder, Lionel Spittle, Caroline Jones, Diane Asbury and Dave Rock formed one team, while Simon Kimberley, Martyn Finney, Paul Tucker and Kevin Rock formed the other. 

Swimming the channel had been a life-long dream for most of the swimming enthusiasts so when the opportunity rose, they all jumped at the chance, knowing they could use the challenge to raise money for causes close to their heart, and for Caroline Jones, that was Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity. 

Caroline’s daughter, Isobel, was 15 when she was rushed to her local hospital having lost the use of her arm and experiencing seizures. After tests revealed Isobel had three fluid-filled tumours on her brain, she was rushed to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder, a rare condition where the immune system damages the spinal cord and the optic nerves.  

Doctors told Caroline that due to the nature of Isobel’s tumours, they were inoperable, but they immediately started treating Isobel by giving her a plasma exchange and continuous infusions of steroids to try and shrink the tumours. It was a scary time for Caroline’s family as no one could be sure of Isobel’s prognosis but the care they received at the hospital was second to none and Caroline knew her daughter was in the best hands. 

Now 20-years-old, Isobel receives care for her condition with adult services but shares Caroline’s gratitude for Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and proudly waved her mum off as she and her swimming team boarded the boat to begin their channel challenge. 

The teams swam on different days and Caroline’s team took the plunge first with each of the four members swimming for an hour at a time, in rotation, until they reached France. They were accompanied by the Channel Swimming Association, who kept a close eye on each swimmer’s safety but also made sure they completed their full hour without touching the boat. After a long and gruelling 12 hours and 21 minutes, Caroline’s team reached France, and a week later, when the other team took on their relay, finishing in 11 hours and 59 minutes. 

With a fundraising target of £10,000 to be split equally between Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity and another cause, the swimmers were delighted to see their total rocket to over £30,000, especially thanks to an agreement with DPD parcel delivery service, who matched their donations up to £10,000. 

Caroline said: “Swimming the channel is unlike anything we’ve done before as saltwater swimming in open water is so different to swimming in pools or lakes, so it took a lot of training. The relay itself was incredibly difficult, and our first team weren’t very fortunate with the weather but it made it all the more of an achievement when we finally reached France. 

I’m forever grateful for the amazing knowledge of the neurology team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the care Isobel received while she was there; she may have suffered far greater if it wasn’t for them, so this challenge was my thank you. 

Miranda Williams, Head of Public Fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “Caroline and her swimming friends really made a splash with their incredible channel relay challenge and we can’t thank them enough for choosing to support our hospital and charity with their fundraising. 

“The phenomenal amount the teams raised will go on to help us do more for countless sick kids and young people just like Isobel.”