Londonderry man takes on one million step challenge to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation

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A University lecturer from Londonderry, who survived two cardiac arrests and frequent shocks from his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) over the past four years, is taking on a one million step challenge to raise funds for British Heart Foundation NI.

46-year-old Alex Magee suffered his first cardiac arrest in February 2020, at just 42 and had a very traumatic 4 years of recovery. Now as he is getting back to normal Alex wants to raise awareness of heart conditions, CPR and defibrillators as well as raising funds for BHF NI.

Over July and August, Alex is walking the equivalent distance of the length and breadth of Ireland, approximately 470 miles and is encouraging people in the local community to join him.

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On that first cardiac arrest in Germany, Magee said: “I was sitting in the rest room on completion of an expedition in Germany when I collapsed, however I came around and was taken to hospital by medics.

Alex Magee from Londonderry is taking on a one million step challenge for British Heart Foundation NI. The 46-year-old University lecturer suffered 2 cardiac arrests and is now walking the equivalent distance of the length and breadth of Ireland, approximately 470 miles during July and August to raise funds for BHF NI and is encouraging people in the local community to join him. Pictured with Alex is Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NIAlex Magee from Londonderry is taking on a one million step challenge for British Heart Foundation NI. The 46-year-old University lecturer suffered 2 cardiac arrests and is now walking the equivalent distance of the length and breadth of Ireland, approximately 470 miles during July and August to raise funds for BHF NI and is encouraging people in the local community to join him. Pictured with Alex is Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NI
Alex Magee from Londonderry is taking on a one million step challenge for British Heart Foundation NI. The 46-year-old University lecturer suffered 2 cardiac arrests and is now walking the equivalent distance of the length and breadth of Ireland, approximately 470 miles during July and August to raise funds for BHF NI and is encouraging people in the local community to join him. Pictured with Alex is Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NI

"I suspected that I was either over-exhausted or dehydrated. Later I learnt that I had my first of two cardiac arrests. Thankfully because of the quick actions of the medical staff, I survived.”

In the recovery room, Alex suffered a further cardiac arrest and was taken to the cardiac ICU ward immediately for further monitoring.

After ten days in the German hospital with no diagnosis, Alex was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Birmingham, where following further investigations, they put him on medication and fitted him with an ICD, as they could not find a cause or the root of the problem.

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Life was going relatively well for Alex until mid-2021 when he started feeling unwell again and was receiving regular shocks from his ICD, which became a “living nightmare” for Alex.

Alex said: “In February 2023 I took myself into Altnagelvin hospital emergency department because I decided I couldn’t live with the situation anymore.

"The increasing episodes of my ICD going off was having a detrimental effect on my mental health and well-being. I was scared to fall asleep at night as I would wake up sometimes just before my ICD would go off or I woke up with fear that it was going to.”

Alex was put back on medication but was unable to tolerate it and was referred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for further review and follow up. He had his ICD replaced and was put on new medication. All tests Alex had showed no signs of heart disease. He hopes to have some further testing carried out in the future to try and get clarification on the root cause of his experience.

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Alex said: “For four years I didn’t know from one day to the next day whether I was going to go into cardiac arrest. With my new ICD and medication, I am once again getting back to normal and working on my fitness and doing what I love.

“My experience has encouraged me to want to help others in a similar position. I want to get my message out there to help support anyone living with a heart condition to be strong, get help if you need it and stay positive. Even when it seems like your world has ended, it can actually be the start of a new chapter.”

Alex now plans to walk the equivalent distance of the length and breadth of Ireland, approximately 470 miles during July and August and is encouraging people in the local community to join him.

He adds: “I would like to share my experiences and maybe something that I have mentioned triggers others, and I want to help the BHF raise funds which may help treat and/or cure heart conditions. I would encourage anyone who lives locally and would like to join me on one of my walks to get in touch on my just giving page.

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“The BHF has a wide range of services and assistance for people like me and many other cardiac conditions. They strive for change, funding research into heart conditions and raising awareness of CPR and defibrillators which ultimately save lives. Every step I walk is the first step someone takes to recovery. Always step forward and never step back. Every time I take a step it is for you.”

Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NI said: “Alex has been through such a difficult time over the past four years and his strength in recovery and bravery in telling his story around his heart health really is commendable.

“I would encourage everyone to put their best foot forward to support Alex, whether through donating to help fund our lifesaving research or by joining him in his incredible challenge. We wish Alex the very best of luck and support.”

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