Brenda Walker on her walk up Brent Knoll

Brenda Walker on her walk up Brent Knoll

Friday 30th August 2019

On September the 22nd patients from across the UK will walk a mile to inspire others and demonstrate that you really do get your life back after treatment if it’s detected early. Brenda Walker is away in September so she decided to complete her walk a little earlier and here’s how she got on….

I wanted to walk up Brent Knoll alone to prove I could still do so at the age of 85 and also to celebrate the return of that energy I once possessed. Brent Knoll is so interesting as it occupies an ancient landscape once known as ‘The Isle of Frogs’, because from time to time it was cut off by winter high tides and rising floods. During the Iron-Age there was a fort on the summit, but the route to it is mostly steep and isolated. Up there, you can imagine the Romans and Anglo-Saxons seeking refuge from invading Danes landing on the nearby coast. As I climbed, I breathed in history, gazing over the vast flatness of windswept Somerset and the Bristol Channel. If they could have seen me up there, how surprised all my children and grandchildren would be for most of them live far off in distant lands.

I still can’t believe how poorly I was before I had my Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) in 2011 and yet I managed to climb this ancient site thinking how lucky I’ve been to survive long enough to meet my two great grandsons who live in Canada. Before my diagnosis I always presumed I was just ‘getting old’ but after all these years, my treatment still enables me achieve many things.

The walk back to the village at the base of the Brent Knoll was much faster than the climb up, although where possible, I held onto the hand rails placed strategically to help older visitors. We live in this lovely village with a couple of inns and a Norman church, famous for its 15th century bench ends and ceiling panels and conveniently, our bungalow stands between a pub called Red Cow and the cider farm! I often walk to the only shop/ post office or the hairdressers so I can enjoy the care people have taken with their gardens. All these locations are filled with memories and after the walk this morning in celebration of the European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, I view my journey to the top of the Knoll and back as a metaphor for my personal story; that journey seven years ago when I overcame fear and took the risk to have a new aortic valve implanted. The climb to health was well worthwhile.

I’m pleased to be helping Heart Valve Voice spread the word about the importance of having a stethoscope check as the UK is well behind other European countries when it comes to primary care including this as a matter of form for the over 60s. My advice is that if you are feeling tired and are convinced you are feeling older than you are, don't hesitate to ask for such a check-up. I did and it has given me many more energetic years!

‘The more we listen the more lives we save'.