Physio completes English Channel swim to honour brave patients

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Samantha Poulsen in work clothes next to photo of her swimming the English Channel

A physiotherapist swam across the English Channel after being inspired by her cancer patients to raise money for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

Samantha Poulsen, from Tower Hamlets in east London, completed the gruelling 21-mile swim from Dover to Cap Griz Nez in France in 12 hours and 40 minutes.

Thousands of jellyfish, busy shipping lanes, an injured shoulder and a water temperature of around 17 degrees – 10 degrees cooler than an average swimming pool – were just some of the obstacles she faced.

The 27-year-old, who is originally from Australia, looks after patients on Blundell Ward at Guy’s Hospital, which specialises in caring for people who have had surgery for head and neck cancer.

She said: “I have never come across a more resilient and inspiring group of patients. I’m blown away by their determination on a daily basis so I couldn’t think of a better group of people to fundraise for.”

So far Samantha has raised more than £5,200 for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. The charity funds big things and small touches that make the life-saving care at Guy’s and St Thomas’ even better and helps patients and their families to feel really looked after.

Samantha signed up for the English Channel swim in March 2017 but dislocated both her shoulders on a surfing holiday a few months later.

She spent the last 18 months training for the challenge up to six days a week, swimming for between three to four hours at a time.

Samantha said: “I grew up by the beach so I’ve always been a long distance swimmer and thrived off crazy challenges. Jumping into the water at Dover was pretty surreal and terrifying but I just got on with it. I kept thinking it was such a privilege to be able to do this.”

She added: “My shoulder gave out after four hours so I was in quite a lot of pain the rest of the way. There were also thousands of jelly fish a meter below the surface. My fingers brushed the top of them and I was really lucky not to get stung.”

Samantha’s parents travelled from Australia to support her and were on the boat with her coach and housemate cheering her on.

Samantha said: “Failure was never an option. I had so many people supporting me and the cause is so close to my heart. I committed the last year and a half of my life to this challenge so I had to keep going.

“The last two hours were a real battle because the tide was so strong. I could see France was really close which was heart-breaking because it didn’t seem to get any bigger.”

She added: “I couldn’t believe it when I finally made it to France, I cried because I was so happy. Despite it being so tough and being in so much pain with my shoulder, I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Kieron Boyle, Chief Executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity said: “We often hear of patients fundraising inspired by the people who cared for them at the Trust but, as Samantha’s story shows, it also happens the other way around. Staff at our hospitals and community sites are our best champions – they tell others about charitable giving, raise funds themselves and they are essential to ensure donations are used to give patients the best care possible.”

To support Samantha’s fundraising, please visit the virgin money giving wesbite.

For more information about fundraising for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, visit our charity wesbite.

Last updated: September 2018

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