BY MAYA CHAVVAKULA
A 72-year-old cyclist who had his hip replaced after an accident is now going on a 150-mile bike ride to raise money for medical aid.
Cycling enthusiast George Hallam, from Lewisham, shattered his hip in the saddle in 2016 and had to wait two-and-a-half hours for an ambulance.
He has since made a full recovery and said that his ordeal inspired him to help raise money for the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) by cycling 150 miles along the West Bank.
Mr Hallam said: “Without treatment I would have been permanently disabled and never ridden again, so I appreciate how lucky I have been compared with people who have suffered similar injuries in countries that lack our medical care.
The treatment I received was exceptional and I was on my feet just two months after the operation.
“During my recovery, I had a bit of time to look into similar cases, and it was then I realised that not everyone has access to this kind of care.
“I did part of my physio at King’s College Hospital, who have previously worked with hospitals in Gaza which are often overwhelmed with trauma cases with very little financial means to carry out the required standard of care.
“Given what I went through, I wanted to do something to help.” The charity bike ride will cover 150 miles and is estimated to take 10 days to complete.
The fundraiser page Mr Hallam set up to aid his journey has already reached 20 per cent of his goal, and he is confident that the rest will come in before his departure to Palestine in September.
Mr Hallam, who has been a keen cyclist all his life, was initially worried about whether or not he would be able to get back on his bike after his accident.
He seriously injured his hip when his bicycle hit a partially covered pothole on the road.
He attributes his long wait on the roadside for an ambulance to austerity measures and the lack of sufficient funding to the National Health Service (NHS).
Mr Hallam added: “I don’t blame the ambulance service for making me wait that long. It’s not their fault no beds were available at the hospital. As a former economics professor, I understand that an organisation cannot function effectively when their funding is cut to the bone.
“The NHS is a wonderful concept that helps countless people like me every year, and there will be irreparable damage to this country if we don’t ensure its longevity.”
The London Ambulance Service, which eventually transported Mr Hallam to the hospital, were unable to comment on the delay.
Mr Hallam got his lifelong passion for cycling from his parents, who were both avid cyclists themselves.
He said: “In 1950 we went to France – my dad had been stationed in Dieppe after D-day.
“My parents had a tandem. I sat in the middle, the camping equipment was in a trailer. Sylvia, my sister, had her own bike.
My dad, Don Hallam, injured his knee in 1972 when he was 70. He had to give up cycling after that.
“My mum only stopped cycling when she was 81, due to her eyesight deteriorating.”
Mr Hallam was also previously involved in the campaign to save the Accident and Emergency (A&E) at Lewisham hospital in 2012.
He formed an action group to fight the previous Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to do away with the A&E at Lewisham hospitals and redirect the traffic to Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in Woolwich.
The judicial review ruled in the campaign’s favour but the two hospitals later decided to merge their emergency services to increase efficiency.
Anyone interested in helping Mr Hallam raise money for MAP can make a donation at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/george-hallam3
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