Every pedal of the bike on the 330 kilometres of the 2015 Mount Franklin Cardiac Challenge will hurt Josie O'Shea.
But you would be hard-pressed to find a person with more motivation to tackle the three-day fundraiser than she. Josie's husband of nine years died in October last year and it was he who inspired their involvement in the event, now in its ninth year.
“It all started when my brother in Victoria had an unexpected heart attack, and afterwards he happened to be up here and Stephen said 'Let's ride for Patrick, it just goes to show it can happen to anyone',” Josie explained. That was September 2011, and the following February, Stephen also suffered a heart attack. “He was fit, just two weeks before he'd ridden Copperlode but there were no real signs that something was amiss,” she said.
Stephen underwent a triple bypass in Townsville and in 2012 was still recovering but Josie and her brother Patrick did the Cardiac Challenge together. The plan in 2013 was for all three to ride Cardiac Challenge together, but in June that year Stephen became unwell with an aggressive brain tumour. Josie and Patrick did Cardiac Challenge together while Stephen supported on the sidelines.
Two bouts of brain surgery, including one by the renowned Dr Charlie Teo, were not able to save him, and he died in October 2014 aged 59. “Cycling was Stephen's freedom,” Josie said. “When he wasn't allowed to drive, it became his escape, even when the doctors told him not to. We rode Port Douglas to Cape Trib, 90km in 2013, three months after surgery and he loved it. It started off as Patrick’s name that we were doing it for, now it's for Stephen,” a still emotional Josie said. Last year Patrick did Cardiac Challenge on Stephen's bike and he will do again this year in a team of five called “Riding for Stephen”.
Not only will the event be tough emotionally for Josie, but in January this year, she suffered a cycling accident which led to a punctured lung and at least seven broken ribs. “I'm absolutely determined to do this,w” the 53-year-old said. “Get your wallet out of your pocket because you never know when you or one of your loved ones are going to need the services.”
Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation CEO Tony Franz said Josie’s dedication was an inspiration to everyone involved. “Josie’s determination to do this really shows us that you can do whatever you put your mind to,” Mr Franz said.
Cardiac Challenge is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland as part of a dynamic calendar of events throughout the state.
For further information visit cardiacchallenge.com.au
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