The people involved in the 2011 Betfair LifeCycle Challenge on Saturday paid a courtesy visit to the Leader of the Opposition Joseph Muscat at One Productions, followed by a visit to the Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi at his office in Castille. The delegation included around 20 of the cyclists, the back-up team who support the participants prior to and throughout the event, and members of the LifeCycle Foundation council.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi told the team: “LifeCycle’s aim to contribute to the Renal Unit carries a strong significance. Our hospital, which is equipped with the best medical team and infrastructure, still requires a strong degree of voluntary work to augment our patients’ quality of life. This year is the European Year of Volunteering, and your visit to the Office of the Prime Minister is a sign of the public’s appreciation for the dedication and commitment of all those who give their time for a cause.”
Dr Muscat had earlier welcomed the team and expressed his appreciation for the wonderful cause that they were supporting, as well as for the commitment and determination shown.
This year’s challenge – the 13th edition – will see the participants follow a gruelling 2,000km route from Prague to Sarajevo, which will go through seven countries. En route, they will be camping out in very basic accommodation organised with the help of Malta’s diplomatic missions, and each participant must raise enough money to cover the cost of their own participation as well as a substantial amount of sponsorship.
This, combined with the generosity of those who donate through the SMS campaign, mean that each event raises a considerable amount of money – over €1 million since the first challenge – all for the Renal Unit at Mater Dei.
There are currently around 235 patients on dialysis in Malta. Since each session lasts four hours and many patients need to be treated three times a week (some need treatment on alternate days and even daily), the use of home units makes a tremendous difference to patients’ quality of life. Among the many items purchased by LifeCycle are such home units (used by 45% of the patients) but there are many other ways in which the sessions can be made more bearable – such as the provision on TV sets in the unit – and ways to help patients monitor their dietary and liquid intake, both major factors in their well-being. In fact, the current challenge may be used to raise money for a nutritionist and physiologist.
Last year, LifeCycle raised €215,000 of which €135,000 went directly into the Renal Unit for life-saving equipment.
Paul Calleja, Nursing Officer in charge Renal Unit and transplant coordinator at Mater Dei Hospital commented: “Although the government has always supported the Renal Unit with all its requirements, LifeCycle has extended this support throughout its 13 years of existence. Besides the various lifesaving equipment, refurbishment at the old Renal Unit at SLH and purchasing of plasma TVs, LifeCycle has also sponsored patients to Lourdes and various day outs throughout the years.
“The introduction of full-time support services like a clinical nutritionist and physiologist is being requested now. Sponsoring of staff to European conferences on renal nursing nephrology might also be another option.
“As I mentioned, the patients are well-being taking care of with regards to equipment and professional assistance, but the continuing support that LifeCycle gives to these patients to day outs and Lourdes pilgrims are the cherries on the cake.”
It is important to note that patients require dialysis for a number of reasons. Kidney failure can result from everything from diabetes to trauma, and from infections to cancer. Once kidneys fail, the only way to return to a “normal life” is to have a successful transplant but this requires a donor kidney that perfectly matches the patient. In 2010, there were only 11 transplants from cadavers and seven from living donors. So far this year, there have already been 11 transplants from cadavers and four from live donors. At the moment, the youngest person on dialysis is 17-years-old.
The LifeCycle organisation was set up in 1999 by Alan Curry after his wife went into the Renal Unit having suffered kidney failure. He organised a cycling trip to his home town of Haydon Bridge in the UK as a way to raise funds – and awareness – for the unit, having seen first-hand the dedication of the staff and the courage of the patients that had to go there on a regular basis for hours at a time. He was accompanied by Tony Bugeja, then head nurse at the unit, who remains a staunch supporter of the organisation and is still a member of its committee.
That first trip turned into an annual event to neighbouring countries, which grew year on year until in 2003, the group of cyclists actually went away by plane, adding complex logistics to the gruelling endurance challenge. Over the past years, the cyclists have gone to over 25 countries – raising over €1 million – and dozens of cyclists are already training for this year’s challenge, which will see them cycle 2,000km through seven countries next August, from Prague to Sarajevo.
After 13 years, LifeCycle has become a foundation, making it a legal entity with clearly defined aims.
Donation lines are already open: