By Orlando Bell
Durham University alumna Florence Jackson is set to swim across the English Channel in order to raise money for Tom’s Fight, the charity set up in order to raise funds for the recovery and rehabilitation of fellow student, Tom Lazarides.
Following a swimming pool accident in June 2020, Tom suffered significant spinal injuries, fracturing his neck in two places, sustaining a serious spinal cord injury, and then contracting rhabdomyolysis in hospital, a condition where damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly.
Tom is a student at Hild Bede, studying Business Management, and before his injury, he played county-level cricket, rugby, and Durham University Golf. Florence Jackson, a family friend, has already completed two fundraising swims in aide of Tom’s Fight and the spinal injury charity Aspire.
The first, ‘Flo and Five Guys’, was a 36km swim from Bath to Bristol completed in two days alongside five friends from University. The second, ‘Flo and Three Guys’, a gruelling 55km, four day, swim in the Caledonian Canal in Scotland.
70% of young people with spinal injuries end up in care-for-the-elderly homes. Swimming across the English Channel had been a long term ambition for Flo, but the coronavirus pandemic significantly accelerated her plans. With the help of the spinal charity Aspire she managed to gain a last-minute place on a channel relay in August and is now part of the Aspire Bulldogs squad. In June, Flo must complete a series of pre-crossing qualifying Channel Swimming Association tests in order to determine her competence for the task ahead.
Emphasising the importance of Tom’s Fight, Florence stressed: “It’s not widely known but we were told that 70% of young people with spinal injuries end up in care-for-the-elderly homes because they are the only places with round-the-clock care provisions. That’s wildly expensive – and it’s incredibly bleak for a young person.”The cost of full rehabilitation care is between £7,500 and £10,000 a week as the NHS does not cover the full process. Tom’s Fight has thus far raised an incredible £184,000 in order to help with Tom’s recovery.
Tom’s remarkable story has created an inspiring response from both friends and celebrities alike. One friend, Cam Evans, has just completed his challenge to run 100 miles for the charity. Meanwhile, a 1,500km cycle by England Hockey player and Tom’s Golf coach, David Matthews, is currently taking place. Elite athletes from Mo Farah to Newcastle legend Alan Shearer have sent Tom their messages of support.
Image: Kent Online