My name is Ted Reddick and I’m a 60 year old businessman from Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire, England. In October 2018 I was hit by a rare neurological condition called Transverse Myelitis (otherwise referred to as TM), which left me paralysed from the neck down.
Up to the point of diagnosis I was fit and active; playing tennis, racquetball and squash regularly, as well as cycling extensively. Thanks to intensive and costly neurological rehabilitation and physiotherapy, my condition has improved considerably, although some aspects of life are seriously compromised by, possibly, irrecoverable damage.
Challenge-TM is my attempt to raise awareness of this rare and easily misdiagnosed condition. As you will read in my story, I was lucky that when I was struck down it happened to be in a place where the condition was recognised and treated quickly. Others may not be so lucky and without fast and effective help it can have serious long-lasting affects.
My aim is to create awareness — because with awareness comes research and more informed treatment plans – and to raise funds to help those unable to afford critical rehabilitation treatment.
The first challenge I set myself, in September 2021, was to cycle (non-stop) up Mont Ventoux, in Provence, France; a 6,200 ft mountain climb made famous by the Tour de France. With the issues I face this was never going to be easy but succeeding would enable me to raise funds from within the business community (and friends) to help other sufferers. Despite failing to complete the ride non-stop on Monday 13th September (leaving me in some physical distress) I did go back to finish the journey four days later and managed to complete the climb.
In very basic terms the body’s autoimmune system attacks the spinal cord and causes lesions which affect functions in the body below the level of the lesion. Unfortunately my attack was severe (covering the C3 to C5 vertebra) and it initially caused full paralysis below my neck. The paralysis was addressed with intravenous steroids and the immediate commencement of physiotherapy, but many people are not as fortunate as I was in being diagnosed and treated within days of onset. The outcome in all instances is extremely varied and I have a number of issues that are now with me for the rest of my life.
A more detailed explanation of the condition can be read here. More information on how the (UK based) TM Society can provide support and assistance to new and existing sufferers can be found on their website: www.myelitis.org.uk
To me, my second attempt to cycle up Mont Ventoux non-stop on 5th September 2022 failed 3km from the summit, when my brain decided it had had enough and started to shut me down! I did, however, make it to the top (after another 3 very short stops) and I travelled further than 2021 before it all started to go wrong. The significant post-ride effects were also not as debilitating as in the previous year. To everybody else I succeeded with the Challenge, as I didn’t dismount from the bike and each stop was barely a minute in duration. In the end I raised over £11,000 from this effort.
I returned to the mountain four days later and attempted to climb one of the two harder ascents (this from Malaucene) – just to see if I could – and I did make it, despite numerous very short stops to reset my brain and legs. This in turn is fueling thoughts on what to do next…
Pledges of £32,326 were received and banked for my first Challenge (although 3 pledgees – from an amazing 83 – didn’t pay up, so that was made up in person and through a business supporter).
The first two beneficiaries (ladies from Essex and Hertfordshire) received over £3,000 in contributions towards intensive neurological rehabilitation to assist in their recovery and problems associated with transverse myelitis. Their brief stories can be read on the recipients page. At the time of writing (August 2023), two other sufferers of the condition are being assisted with the costs of their critical neurological rehabilitation and, with four others now having completed their therapy programs, over £27,000 has been commited to date.
Having spent many years (between 1981 and 1993) racing bicycles, it has remained one of my passions. The Covid-19 pandemic seriously interrupted my physiotherapy program (not least my inability to use a gym) and, as a result, I focused on cycling as the best form of exercise in order to increase and regain some of my leg strength as well as general all round fitness and upper body strengthening.
I lost 22lbs of muscle and a considerable amount of strength during the initial onset period and, despite over 56 months of recovery, I am still faced with a multitude of issues that are proven to worsen without almost daily activity and exercise.
With this in mind – and with a long-held desire to ride up some of the famous Grand Tour climbs – I chose to attempt to ride up Mont Ventoux in September 2021. The primary objective for me was to get to the top non-stop but unfortunately it was not to be, as the long terms effects of TM took it’s hold after 13 miles of climbing and 3 miles from the summit.
My objective financially was to raise at least £25,000, which would then be used by Challenge-TM (a company set up specifically for this task) to distribute to those newly diagnosed with TM and who have the drive and desire to succeed in life or sport. Prior to the attempt I had received pledges of just under £31,000 and, following the initial ‘failure’ (before I decided to go back), many requested that their pledges remain and further pledges continued to arrive.
The recipients of funds received must demonstrate a commitment to push themselves to enable the best possible recovery. I know it’s achievable as I’ve done it myself and I intend to maintain a mentoring and motivational role if deemed appropriate.
By working with companies such as Hobbs Rehabilitation (with whom I undertook the majority of my neurological rehabilitation), Neurokinex and others, we will be able to provide assistance to those unable to access sufficient funds for critical rehabilitation therapy.
I plan to maintain a close involvement with those sufferers as I would hope that, through seeing my efforts to succeed, that will help to drive both them and others in the right direction.
Having succeeded in raising over £30,000 in 2021, I intended to undertake something every year from thereon. For 2022 I returned to Ventoux to attempt again to ride the climb non-stop – as I needed something to help me focus on my own continued therapy, as well as that of others. I didn’t seek pledges from the previous year’s supporters (although they were not rejected!) as I was at that time holding the majority of funds raised from the ’21 Challenge. Whilst I didn’t achieve my ultimate goal in 2022 (in reaching £50,000 overall) the overall sum of over £45,000 to date has helped 8 other sufferers of transverse myelitis to varying degrees.
The ultimate ‘Ventoux Challenge’ for me would be to climb all three routes in one day and that is now something I am looking to try in 2024. Watch this space (as I am due to have my left knee replaced in September 2023).
In the run up to the 2021 Challenge my exercise regime generally comprised of 4 days ‘on’ followed by a single day of rest – however this was heavily dependent on factors outside of my control (not least the massive fatigue and lethargy that TM can cause).
In 2021 and early in 2022 (when at home) I used a Wattbike Atom for at least one 1 hour session a week (on some weeks as many as fives sessions). This machine is essentially a static bicycle which measures a multitude of actions and inputs. It proved to be invaluable, as I can measure my improvement through time, but early session software issues created many frustrations. Using mountain and specific climbing programs on the Wattbike assisted me greatly in increasing my power output at a lower cadence (pedal revolutions) than I would normally use, but it’s difficult to focus on something when it all goes wrong after 5 minutes – and that’s still an occasional frustration.
The Wattbike is combined with road cycling although (up to June 2021) I also incorporated one lengthy gym session every week (with an hour on weight equipment). Most of my road rides are presently ridden on one of my Colnago road bikes although in Norfolk I also use a less valuable Pinarello when the weather turns and, for the really bad weather (and the winter) a BMC Alpenchallenge belt driven hybrid complete with mudguards. As an ex racer I have retained many of my old racing bikes but the collection has also grown to 23 in total (many acquired following TM as a diversion). The plan for 2022 was to ride on a new British made hand made steel framed bike but, regretfully, that didn’t happen as the builder did not have enough work to keep his activities going. Much as I love the Colnago brand I was very disappointed in 2021 that, despite two approaches for a simple message from the great man himself, nothing was received in return – not even an acknowledgement – so despite using the same equipment in 2022 there is now a new bicycle ready for future challenges. This hand made titanium framed bike has a made to measure frame from Passoni in Italy with full Campagnolo equipment and a wider range of gears for future climbs (it’s even painted in complimentary colours to the Challenge-TM jersey).
I spend a lot of time at my girlfriend’s home in Norfolk where I road cycle as much as I can. Balance and co-ordination issues make the quiet Norfolk lanes a lot safer than my local roads in Hampshire and I also can ride in the knowledge that if I encounter a problem then I can be ‘rescued’.
I ‘play’ tennis twice a week with a group of guys with whom I have played doubles with for many years. Although I spent nearly a year away from playing, they ensured that my space was retained but, naturally, things are a lot different now to what they used to be. I get a double bounce (as in wheelchair tennis) but my complete inability to run means it’s effectively me standing still and hitting the ball if it’s within reach. As with the cycling it’s absolutely critical neurological rehabilitation for me but it can be quite comical – particularly if I suddenly start walking backwards or my legs shut down!
Unfortunately a blow to the head from a badly hit tennis ball (in February 2022) led to a detached retina which compromised a few weeks of my exercise programme. Having had the retina repaired I then needed cataract surgery and now further eye work. The loss of leg muscle created major problems with a heavily arthritic left knee (following an ACL repair in 1995) and this is due to be fully replaced in September 2023. The eye and knee issues can be directly linked to the effects of the TM.
An article published in Cycling Weekly in March 2019.
Image © Cycling Weekly
An article published in Bike-Mag in July 2021.