Sanderstead mum’s Channel swim closes in on bionic target

An amputee from Sanderstead has added “Channel swimmer” to her list of accomplishments after a 15-hour relay effort at the weekend gave the latest cash boost to her fund-raising campaign to pay for a bionic hand.

Delighted: Nicola Wilding after completing her last effort towards her Channel swim this week

Nicola Wilding, 44, was part of a five-person team which set off from Folkestone on their 21-mile-plus journey in the pitch black at 1.10am on Monday as part of the #NickyNeedsAHand campaign.

Each member of the “Dover Darlings” team was scheduled to swim three one-hour spells from their boat, Masterpiece. – which cast off at such an unfriendly hour in order to make the best of the treacherous tides in the English Channel.

And 14hr 53min and 22sec later, they arrived safely in France.

“I’m not sure how many female one-armed swimmers have attempted the crossing, but I’ll say I’m the first from Sanderstead aged 44,” Wilding said.

Wilding undertook the Channel crossing – adding to the Half Ironman triathlon she completed earlier in the month – to raise funds for her to be fitted for a bionic hand that is controlled by thought.

How the Channel Swimming Association registered the completed relay swim

Wilding needs at least £30,000 for the procedure, and before the Channel swim her fund-raising had hit £23,000. Thanks to her cross-Channel efforts, the fund-raiser is now close to its target.

Television producer Wilding lost the use of her right arm in a motor accident two decades ago.

While driving along the A23 from Brighton, Wilding experienced a tyre blowout at 70mph. Thinking quickly, she managed to avoid all other road users and steer the car on to the hard shoulder.

However, without any crash barriers, her car clipped the curb and rolled. Wilding suffered a severe brachial plexus injury, damaging the nerves in her right hand and forearm.

Since 1999, she has undergone numerous muscle and nerve transplants in an attempt to restore function, all while raising her son alone.

In 2017, Wilding underwent elective amputation and reconstructive surgery to help restore the nerve pathways in her arm and ease the chronic and constant pain she had endured.

The money Wilding raises will be used to provide her with a Bebionic hand, one of the world’s most lifelike prosthetics, as well as further operations to reconstruct and restore nerve pathways.

With the specialised prosthetic costing upwards of £30,000, Nicola’s choices are to raise enough money for the operation or opt for further amputation to reduce her pain.

Finish in sight: with France visible in the distance, Wilding returns to the water for her final swim

The particular prosthesis sought after is a ground-breaking myoelectric model designed to be connected to motor nerve sites and connected via electrodes where a strong signal is found. To move the prosthetic hand, Wilding will need to think about and practice an action so the signals can be read and the action completed.

“There’s only so much money you can ask from your friends and family,” Wilding said.

“My son has been absolutely fantastic. Not only has he donated as much as he can, he’s also taken so much time out of his busy schedule as a self-employed scaffolder to run me around and has helped me with all my kit.

“My mum has also been my rock throughout my journey, enduring all the early starts for my triathlons, she’s never far from my side!

“I hope that this can not only be an opportunity for me to be pain-free but also to help other amputees to realise that quality of life can be improved with the right support and technology.”

To donate to #NickyNeedsAHand and to find out more about her efforts and those of the supporting charity, the SuperHero Foundation, click here.

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