A former health care support worker is embarking on her first physical challenge with the Cardiff Half Marathon in October.
Karen Burke, 57, from Penarth is taking on the challenge to raise money and awareness of Ein Berllan Our Orchard, a unique outdoor space being developed at University Hospital Llandough (UHL).
Karen has lost four stone in the process of training for the Half Marathon and says a few years ago she would struggle to walk up the stairs.
Karen has chosen the Orchard appeal through Cardiff & Vale Health Charity as she is passionate about the new project. As a Unison rep at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Karen says she knows a lot of people and is committed to spreading the word about Our Orchard and the effects of health and wellbeing amongst staff.
Karen said: “The Health Board has always been good in promoting Health and Wellbeing to staff and I have been helping to promote that, but when I wasn’t doing anything about my own health and wellbeing I thought ‘why would anyone listen to me?’
“When talking to other staff about their health and wellbeing, it was harder to inspire them when I was four stone overweight. I am now so much fitter and healthier and can be convincing because I have done it myself. I think at 57, and just starting on my fitness journey, it shows anyone can do it.
“When I heard about the Orchard appeal I thought what a fantastic project for everybody concerned: staff, patients and the community. I really wanted to be involved with it as it’s something where I can benefit myself, my health and also raise some money and awareness for Our Orchard.
“My sister has been the inspiration for me wanting to drive forward Our Orchard. She was a visitor here with her husband who died two years ago, and quite often from the ward I worked on I would see my sister walking up and down the site. I always thought it would be nice for her to be able to get away from what she was going through, and just to have a place to sit down, have a sandwich and reflect. When the Orchard appeal came up my sister was at the forefront of my mind, as what a lovely place it would have been for her to have somewhere to go at the time.”
While transforming her own health and wellbeing Karen has not only lost weight, become fitter and healthier but has also given up smoking. She started exercising by going on short walks and built this up over time.
She said: “I was trying to get fit and walking a lot and I walk pretty fast, which is probably a result of working on the wards for 20 years. Before I knew it I was walking 5 miles, 10 miles and then I thought the Half Marathon seemed like the next step really.
“I’ve been training for the marathon for three months now. I go to the Gower most weekends and walk the coast roads and I can complete the Gower now. My physical activity before this was none! I’ve gone from zero to half marathon. I’ve lost four stone in the making, so health-wise I feel tons better.
“I used to park my car in the main car park at UHL which was opposite my office, now I leave the car at home and walk in.
“It’s never too late to change your habits. I used to have a lot of back pain and leg pain, and now that’s easing, so the health benefits have been tremendous to me.”
Ein Berllan Our Orchard is being developed to aid recovery and rehabilitation for patients as well as providing a unique outdoor space for visitors and the local community.
It will be developed on 7 acres of semi-rural pasture land and woodland at the UHL site and will contain meadows, trees and bee hotels.
For more information on Ein Berllan Our Orchard visit http://www.cardiffandvaleuhb.wales.nhs.uk/ein-berllan-our-orchard
To sponsor Karen in her Marathon challenge visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/karenburke27