Coronavirus: UK hero Captain Tom Moore inspired me to climb Mount Everest on my stairs
Steven Dowd in April 2020 climbed the equivalent height of Mount Everest, 8,848 metres, by going up and down his stairs for four consecutive days.
London, United Kingdom - Steven Dowd recently completed a highly ambitious charity challenge, following in the footsteps of Britain's Covid-19 lockdown icon, despite being left paralysed from the neck down four years ago.
The quality of thriving in adversity is ingrained in the British psyche given that we have survived two world wars, so it is fitting that a World War Two veteran has emerged as the defining figure of Britain's coronavirus lockdown.
Captain Tom Moore has staggeringly raised more than £32 million (Dh143 million) for National Health Service (NHS) charities by doing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday in April, yet there have been myriad other Britons who have followed in his footsteps and done extraordinary things for good causes.
One such is Steven Dowd, who climbed the equivalent height of Mount Everest, 8,848 metres, by going up and down his stairs for four consecutive days. Nine days later, he ran 7.5 kilometres.
Making Steven's achievements all the more remarkable is the fact that four years ago, he was left paralysed from the neck down after crashing into a traffic barrier while cycling to work.
The 41-year-old Londoner told Khaleej Times: "My 'Isolation Everest' was an 8,448-metre solo ascent to the top of Mount Everest, at home on my stairs. The challenge was completed in 12-hour shifts, echoing the NHS staff shifts, broken into 25 minutes on and five minutes off.
"It took 36-and-a-half hours over four days, winning me the title of the first quadriplegic to virtually summit Mount Everest."
"I felt, quite literally, on top of the world." Steven added of his emotions about scaling his very own Everest.
"It was an ambitious dream to climb a mountain after the injury, so to virtually summit the biggest one was a dream come true. People with spinal-cord injuries face their metaphorical mountains every day to achieve the basic things others don't have to think about.
"I was in intense pain, but that last flight was a rush. I was so proud to overcome such a monumental challenge."
Steven's challenge mirrored that of another recovering quadripligec, Ed Jackson, a 31-year-old former English rugby union player. Ed broke his neck after he dived headlong into the shallow end of a swimming pool, leaving him paralysed from the shoulders down.
On the same day as Steven, Ed scaled his very own Everest - on his parents' stairs - by taking 89,056 steps and 2,783 trips up and down the stairs.
Steven and Ed's combined efforts raised more than £52,000 (Dh233,470) for their chosen charities, the Forever Friends Appeal, the Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation - of which both men are ambassadors - and the Neverest Orthopaedics Foundation, which aims to build a spinal unit in Chitwan, Nepal.
Steven recovered his mobility, and ability to walk, through an experimental clinical trial and pioneering surgery at St George's Hospital in London, which was funded by Wings for Life - Spinal Cord Research Foundation.
But he still has impairment in all four limbs and suffers regular spasms, which were a constant problem during his Everest challenge.
The indomitable Steven battles through such issues, however, and has undertaken several challenges for WFL, including the charity's World Run on May 3.
He said: "This is a totally unique event where the finish chases you in the form of a catcher car. Tens of thousands of people around the world all set off at the same time. You then run as far as you can until caught, which is the end of your race.
"I participated last year in an organised live event. That was the first time I'd attempted to run since total paralysis and surprised everyone, including me, by getting to 6,960 metres. In 2020, due to Covid-19, all live events around the world were cancelled, so runners had to run the same race virtually using a simulator app.
"77,103 runners took part globally, raising ?2.8 million (Dh11.29 million). I set an ambitious goal of 8km and finished with a personal best of 7.5km."
Does he feel his endeavours typify the famous British bulldog spirit which we are famed for in troubled times?
Steven, who has become a motivational speaker for corporates and co-founded a tech start-up called gigl since his accident in June 2016, said: "I've seen several other people overseas doing incredible things recently, but us Brits definitely have a tangible stoicism, a wartime stiff upper lip, that famous 'keep calm and carry on' belief that if we forge ahead through adversity, things will improve.
"In many ways, it makes sense right now. There may not be tanks and trenches outside our doors, but we're at war once again."
Steven's war analogy brings us back to the inspirational Captain Tom Moore, who has now been promoted to Colonel and will be knighted for his phenomenal fundraising efforts.
"Captain Tom Moore is an inspiration for challengers like me. A man of his years taking on a personally monumental challenge and raising funds for NHS charities really captured the hearts and minds of the British public.
"That was evident in the velocity and quantity of donations. What an achievement and what a man.
"In a time dominated by fear, xenophobia, distress and uncertainty, British society needs every-day-hero challengers with inspirational stories of resilience and overcoming challenges to boost morale and feel empowered together again."
- Euan Reedie is a freelance writer and editor in the United Kingdom.
Steven Dowd and his wife Helen completed the Wings for Life World Run in May 2020 in revised fashion due to the coronavirus crisis.