A LOCAL man who managed to raise thousands of pounds and all while battling, unbeknown to him, a serious infection, has thanked the countless people who have supported him in recent months. Recently, Harry Teggarty was delighted to present a cheque for £5,829.27 to the Leukaemia and Lymphoma charity. The money was raised when Harry set himself a challenge – to scale 50 local mountains, not once, but twice, and in as short a time as possible.
No stranger to summits, Harry has been exploring the majestic Mournes for much of his life, spending many thousands of hours “up on the hills”. With a genuine appreciation for the area but also its people, back in June the local grandfather took on one of the toughest challenges of his life – but not the hardest of them all.
Three years ago this popular and wellrespected Annalong man was diagnosed with leukaemia, but that didn’t put a stop to his plans to carry on helping others – including through his role as a very active member of the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team. Using the basis of the ‘Cassie’s Challenge’ mountain route he had earlier devised, Harry covered a staggering 30 mountains on the first day, but the following morning he began to feel unwell. Thinking he had sunstroke, Harry ploughed on over the course of the next four days, covering a total of 170kms, and climbing an astonishing 13,000 metres. In all, it was the equivalent of four marathons. He was determined to complete the challenge and, looking back on it, Harry can now admit he perhaps should have suspended the fundraiser. He added that “most likely adrenaline and the good Lord watching over me” got him through.
However, by this stage, Harry was barely able to swallow and the day after he completed the fundraiser he was rushed to hospital. Diagnosed with a severe Strep A infection in his throat, Harry had surgery to drain and remove an abscess but three days later, his health deteriorated even further. He had to be heavily sedated, and have a tracheotomy tube installed, while he lay in intensive care.
Fortunately, six weeks after his admission, Harry was allowed to return home. “It was a long sentence, but I thank the Lord that I am here to tell the tale,” he said. Harry, who has daily chemotherapy in tablet form, said that in addition to the support of the community for his fundraiser, he really appreciates the kindness and concern shown when news began to spread that he was in hospital. “There have been so many people who supported me and my family in recent weeks and months and we would have been lost without them,” he said, adding that whilst he battled through the challenge, he was spurred on by the many people who came out to cheer him on. “Those words of encouragement were everything, they definitely made me feel better, when I can now say I was struggling on,” he added.
Mountains covered by Harry during the course of his challenge included the likes of the well-known Slieve Donard, Millstone and the two Binnians, in addition to the likes of Pierce’s Castle, Eagle, Moolieve, Hen, Slievenamuck and Doan. Harry named the 50-mountain challenge in memory of Cassie, his family’s beloved black Labrador, and subsequently published a beautiful hardback book outlining the route. He donates the proceeds to the Newcastlebased mountain rescue team. To date, these sales have reached well over £10,000. Having previously run Cassie’s Challenge in just 21 hours and 43 minutes, Harry explained that this ‘double’ version of it was all about endurance, and he had to pace himself throughout, getting just a few hours rest in a friend’s campervan. Especially considering Harry’s weakened immune system, completing this 100 mountains challenge was an incredible feat. “I cannot understand how I got it all done. Never once did I think my health was going to nosedive like it did, but I know the Lord was with me and He got me round. The way I was, it would have been impossible otherwise,” he continued. “The support has been phenomenal and I am humbled by the donations received. It was great to be able to hand over this cheque to a charity which does great work in the heart of our community.” Copies of ‘Cassie’s Challenge’ are on sale via the shop on the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team’s Facebook page and also in local shops.