Cambridge rowers complete charity challenge rowing three times the length of the Thames

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Sarah Catchpole, 55, back on the rowing machine for the first time since she suffered a stroke. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A rowing club has completed a charity challenge, spurred on after one its own members suffered a stroke at the age of 55.

Athletes from the Cambridge ’99 Rowing Club have spent the last 24 hours rowing more than three times the length of the Thames to raise money for the Stroke Association.

The team were inspired to take on the challenge after a member of their own squad, Sarah Catchpole, had a stroke, whilst she was at work at Addenbrooke's Hospital in August last year.

The 55 year old from Cambridge, spent four weeks in hospital recovering, and a further six weeks with the local stroke rehabilitation team at home.

Sarah Catchpole (middle front row) suffered a stroke while at work last year Credit: ITV News Anglia

"When a stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down and I felt like a part of me also shut down too" Sarah told ITV News Anglia.

"When you have a stroke, or the stroke I had, it affected my right side and it affects your writing, it affects everything on your right side, sitting up, walking, it affects everything. So I was very isolated for a long time.

"Life changes instantly and recovery is tough. But, the brain can adapt. Guidance and support from the Stroke Association has helped to rebuild my life after the stroke.

"They have supported me with many phone calls and answered my many questions, pointing me in the right direction. I am so grateful for all they have done."

The team erged more than three times the length of the Thames in the charity challenge Credit: ITV News Anglia

The volunteer-run squad has helped Sarah's recovery, motivating her to keep going as she aims to get back out on the water this summer.

"She's really the last person you would have thought this would happen to" said Lottie Middleditch, from the Cambridge '99 Rowing Club.

"We were all just flawed so I wanted to really bring our rowing community together to all do something to support Sarah and the Stroke Association."

Around 100,000 people have strokes every year.

Sarah says she is keen to raise awareness of how important it is to act FAST.

"I want to make people aware of stroke, and what a huge impact it has on people and even to know the main signs, which is FAST - Face, Arms, Speech and Time. For everybody just to call 999 if anyone shows the symptoms."

Lida Ballou, fundraiser at the Stroke Association, said: "1.3 million people are living with the devastating impact of stroke.

"We believe that everyone deserves to live the best life they can after stroke and we’re grateful to the Cambridge ’99 squad for taking on this challenge to raise vital funds for the Stroke Association."

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