NURSES and patients will cycle 52 miles to raise vital funds for heart charities.

A team from the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC), based at Basildon Hospital, are gearing up to join a sponsored bike ride from London to Southend.

All money raised from the challenge will be split between the British Heart Foundation and Hearts and Minds, the Basildonbased support group for cardiac patients and their families.

Team member MarkMatthews, 51, spent eight weeks rehabilitating at CTC, after undergoing a double coronary artery bypass.

The banker was shocked to discover he had an irregular hearbeat as he had always been a keen runner and cyclist, and has even climbed to the top of Mount Snowdon, in Wales.

Mr Matthews said: “I had always been fit and active and it was quite a shock to find I had a heart problem.

“My work provided private health cover to pay for the operation, but when I attended the CTC for cardiac rehabilitation I realised I would have preferred to have come here.

“The staff have a fantastic attitude and it is really obvious they enjoy their work.

“It does really knock your confidence having a heart problem, and you need people to reassure you when you exercise that you don’t have to be alarmed every time you feel a twinge.

“It’s also a huge help to meet other people going through the same thing.”

Cardiac nurses Lizzy Fennell and Donna Jessup will be joining him on the ride.

Miss Fennell said: “Donna regularly does 30 miles on her bike. I recently did the same distance in the Essex County bike ride, and I always cycle to the pub!

“All the patients in the cycling team have worked really hard on their rehabilitation and we are very proud to be in the team with them to raise money for a good cause.”

The London to Southend bike ride will take place on Sunday, July 20, To sponsor the team, go to or text WBQQ48 to 70070.