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Brother’s big heart is up to braving water at Langport triathlon

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: September 22, 2012

Brave brothers

Woodey, left, and Rob Gundry have overcome a rare heart condition they are both diagnosed with to raise money for charity with sporting endeavours

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A man with a heart condition will take the plunge in tomorrow's Langport triathlon after overcoming a fear of water that started when he nearly drowned as a child.

Woodey Gundry, of Long Sutton, was fitted with a pacemaker six years ago after he was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome.

Last year he overcame the condition to complete a long-distance bike ride. As part of a team that rode from Land’s End to John o’Groats he helped raise £5,500 for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, Macmillan Cancer Care and the British Heart Foundation.

Now the 32-year-old is preparing to swim 400 metres as part of the Langport triathlon after facing his long-held fear of the water.

He learned to swim three months ago in readiness for the challenge.

Mr Gundry said: “I am a bit nervous about the triathlon, mainly for the swimming part. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but I always held back because I couldn’t swim. I thought if I sign up to do this then I have to learn.

“I almost drowned when I was about five – I was walking alongside a swimming pool and I fell in. I was all disorientated and couldn’t find my way to the top. I ended up being pulled out by my feet, and I always suffered anxiety attacks after that.”

Mr Gundry, who is fundraising for the British Heart Foundation this weekend, is diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome along with other members of his family, including his brother Rob who also has a pacemaker.

Long QT Syndrome is a rare condition that has been dubbed Sudden Adult Death Syndrome because it causes a potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythm.

Woodey said he wants his efforts to inspire others with heart problems.

He said: “Doctors advise against sudden shocks and pushing adrenaline levels up too high, but they also feel that staying fit and healthy and living as normal a life as possible are also important so that’s what I am trying to do. When you first get diagnosed they tell you all the things to avoid, but if you say you want to do something they look at what can be done to allow for it.

“Knowing that I can do these things gives me a bit more confidence, and it proves to other people with heart conditions that you can still do things.”

Woodey’s efforts inspired his brother Rob, 36, also of Long Sutton to take part in the Cheddar marathon earlier this month, raising £300 for St Margaret’s Hospice.

Rob is a keen fundraiser for the hospice, which cared for his and Woodey’s father who died two years ago.

He said: “I used to hate running, but having got into training I now absolutely love it.

“I was inspired by Woodey’s marathon cycle trip which impressed me so much it persuaded me to get fit and go for something like this.

“The longest distance I had covered in training was 18 miles so I was really pleased to make it around the whole course.”

Sunday’s triathlon includes a 22.5km bike ride and a 5km run as well as the swim. It starts at Huish Episcopi Academy at 8.45am and registration opens from 7.30am.

To donate to Rob’s cause visit www.justgiving.com/rob-gundryslamm. To donate to Woodey’s ongoing fundraising for the British Heart Foundation visit www.justgiving.com/james-gundry.

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