A fundraiser from Surrey has raised over £16,000 for charity after her sister had a cardiac arrest at just 21 years old.

Melissa Brown, 27 who now lives in Bristol but is originally from Guildford, together with a group of family and friends, cycled 40 miles from Farnham to Hayling Island in Hampshire to raise funds for Royal Surrey Charity and Cardiac Risk in the Young.

Melissa was inspired to take on the challenge for the two charities after her sister, Sophie, had a cardiac arrest while volunteering at a kids’ summer camp in Poland in 2020. She was taken to hospital where she had a further two cardiac arrests, which devastatingly resulted in brain damage. Sophie then spent over nine months in hospital, before going to live with her parents in Normandy. She is still receiving therapy from Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust’s Community Neuro Rehabilitation Team, who are based at Milford Hospital.

Melissa with her sister, Sophie.

Melissa said:

During a cardiac arrest the oxygen supply to the brain is interrupted, which can result in brain damage. We were originally told that Soph’s brain damage was not compatible with anything more than a vegetative state. The thought of her being alive but not being aware of her environment or being able to communicate her needs in any way was the worst outcome I could ever imagine. However, the months have gone by and she has continued to defy the odds – she is now at home and while she has both physical and cognitive impairments she remains the kind, caring and extremely funny girl we know and love.

Melissa took on the cycling challenge to raise funds and awareness for charities that supported her sister and that will make a difference to others who experience cardiac arrests.

The cycling team

The money raised for Royal Surrey Charity will support the Community Rehabilitation Team at Milford Hospital, funding innovative equipment and training for the neurological team that care for Sophie.

Julie Tearle, Occupational Therapist at Milford Hospital, said:

Our Community Neuro Team has had the pleasure of treating Sophie for the past six months. As a team, we assess and treat patients who have neurological diagnoses, whether progressive or rehabilitative. We are extremely grateful to Melissa and to everyone who has contributed towards Melissa's fundraising. We’re excited for the opportunities this money will bring for the development of the department and the impact of this for future patients who need our support.

Melissa added: “The team are an invaluable part of Sophie’s rehabilitation helping her to improve her mobility, her speech, her memory, and eventually increase her independence.”

The donations will also be split with Cardiac Risk in the Young, an organisation that aims to prevent young sudden cardiac deaths through awareness, screening and research and supports affected families.

You can make a difference to services like those that Sophie is benefitting from by making a donation today. 

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Thank you to Charity Today for featuring Melissa's story. Read the story here.