Brave injury survivor praised after a decade of bike and swim challenges raises £20,000

Fundraiser Malcolm Pitts from Llanrug has raised nearly £20k for the Alaw Unit over the last decade, in memory of his wife Yvonne who died of breast cancer ten years ago. To mark the anniversary this year the staff at the Unit thank him for all his fundraising efforts. Malcolm is pictured with sister Laura Edge, right and colleagues Diana Wilson and Jen Owens, left.
Yvonne and Malcolm Pitts' wedding photo.
Yvonne and Malcolm Pitts’ wedding photo.

A BRAVE brain injury survivor has been praised by hospital staff for raising a staggering £20,000 with a decade of cycling and swimming challenges in memory of his beloved wife.

Superfundraiser Malcolm Pitts has been fundraising for the Alaw Ward at Ysbyty Gwynedd for the last decade, since the devastating loss of his beloved wife Yvonne to breast cancer in 2006.

The 59-year-old of Station Road in Llanrug, has cycled hundreds of miles and swum thousands of metres over the last ten years, all to say thank you the clinical team who cared for his wife.

This summer he is preparing to cycle 60 miles from Plas Menai near Bangor to Llandudno’s Great Orme and back. He will also swim a total nine miles in the Plas Menai pool, as he marks his decade of fundraising.

Malcolm’s achievements are all the more remarkable as he still suffers short term memory loss following a car crash which left his with serious head injuries and on a life support machine for three weeks.

The accident happened nine months after Malcolm and Yvonne’s marriage in 1981.

It meant that as well as being the love of his life and mother to their children Mark and Fiona, Yvonne also became Malcolm’s full time carer, sticking by his side through a long recovery as he learned to walk and talk again.

The tables were turned when in 1996 Yvonne was diagnosed with breast cancer and Malcolm needed to care for her. In 2004 she contracted the disease for the final time.

Nursing and medical staff at the Alaw ward where Yvonne was treated have heaped praise on Malcolm’s amazing fundraising efforts.

Laura Edge, Day Sister at the Alaw Ward, said: “I have worked on the unit for more than 20 years and I actually nursed Yvonne Pitts and remember her well.

“Malcolm and Yvonne were dedicated to each other and, after she passed away, he just began fundraising for the unit in her memory.

“Malcolm’s fundraising really is remarkable and we all wish him well for his efforts again this year. He has raised so much over the years and it has all been used to make life better for our patients.

“We are currently building an extension to the unit and every penny raised this year will go towards new equipment for use in the extension.

“We really can’t thank Malcolm enough for what he has done and for what he continues to do for the unit.”

Malcolm is hoping to raise as much as he can again this year from his sponsored bike ride and swim.

He said: “I’ll be setting off on my bike to ride from Plas Menai to Llandudno. We will ride around the Great Orme and then head back to Plas Menai.

“Then I’m going to swim nine miles in Plas Menai pool. I’m doing six mile-and-a-half swims throughout May.

“All the money will be going to the Alaw Unit in memory of my beautiful wife, Yvonne. The staff on the unit are caring and dedicated.

“The whole unit is brilliant and absolutely everyone depends on them. They are there for everyone who needs treatment.

“In the last ten years the community has been a tremendous help in raising funds for the Alaw Ward, plus the Waunfawr and Llanberis surgeries and the Walton Hospital Liverpool who saved my life, and to the Gwynfa Residential Home. However, our main priority is funding the Alaw Ward.

“The response from family and friends and for those who have taken sponsor forms and filled them in have made the work so worthwhile for the causes. The sponsorship work gives purpose to life.  If it wasn’t for their help, this vast amount would never have been reached.”

Malcolm says he owes his life to Yvonne after she pleaded with the neurosurgeon not to turn off his life support machine, following his terrible car accident which left him in a coma at Walton Hospital in Liverpool.

He said: “We got married when I was 24, Yvonne was 23. I was 25 in the March then on August 10th 1982 I had my car accident. I suffered serious head injuries and brain damage and they put me on a life support machine for three weeks. I was also in a coma for three weeks.

“The neurosurgeon spoke to Yvonne after a few days and said my condition had deteriorated badly, they had to consider turning off the life support machine but she pleaded with them to give me a chance. Luckily I came through it I came through it so I owe my life to my Yvonne.

“I had serious head injuries and brain damage and my memory is poor. I also have a degenerative back problem, which eases when I swim and ride my bike.

“It was actually Yvonne who encouraged me to ride and swim as a way of relieving pain after the accident.

Malcolm added: “Hopefully, I will continue to work until I am no longer able to.

“I’m riding to Llandudno with Darren Brame, a lifeguard at Plas Menai, who has always helped me. He rides with me and supports me all the way, and has joined me cycling for the past 7 years.

“I just hope people will visit my Just Giving Page and support the Alaw ward as the unit needs all the help we can give them.”

Plas Menai lifeguard, Darren Brame, 55, says he will be joining Malcolm for his sponsored ride and helping him through his marathon swim sessions.

He said: “I have known Malcolm for 20 years. When he first came to Plas Menai he was just a beginner when it came to swimming. He could manage about 40 meters at best.

“Now he does 150 lengths at a time which is 2,500 meters. I helped him become a better swimmer by getting his breathing right and working on his technique.

“We have kept a record of how far he swims and in 2011 he passed the 500 mile mark. He must be over the 1,000 mile mark now or at least very close to it.

“I leave the fundraising to him, I see my job as giving support and making sure he’s safe on his bike. We rode from Chester to Bangor one year.”

He added: “He’s such a lovely man and so dedicated to his fundraising for the Alaw unit in memory of Yvonne. People take him to their hearts.

“I remember a few years back his picture appeared in the press after a sponsored ride and some other swimmers here at Plas Menai saw his old clapped out bike and did a collection through Facebook to buy him a new one.

“I’ll be alongside him in late May for the ride to Llandudno and back and I’ll be keeping an eye on his swimming too. He’s such a wonderful character and deserves all the praise he gets.”

To donate to Malcolm’s fundraising efforts for Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Alaw Unit visit