Riley inspires cycle challenge

Dominic Irvine with Riley and his mum Kathryn.
Dominic Irvine with Riley and his mum Kathryn.
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A Yorkshire man is trying to break a world record to help children suffering from heart problems. Catherine Scott reports

Little Riley Platts suffers a rare heart condition. He is only three but has already undergone heart surgery a number of times.

Now Yorkshire businessman Dominic Irvine is embarking on a world record tandem challenge to raise money for Heart Research UK, which help children like Riley.

Dominic, 46, is aiming to beat the world record for the fastest tandem ride between Land’s End and John O’Groats. And he met Riley to gain inspiration for his ride.

Riley, from Guiseley, Leeds, has had a number of operations at Leeds General Infirmary to correct a rare congenital heart defect, truncus arteriosis – where the two main arteries are joined together – and although he is fit and well, will need further operations as he grows older.

Dominic attempts the world record on the weekend of May 3 with British time-trials rider Glenn Longland, and the money they raise will go towards Yorkshire-based Heart Research UK’s “Helping Little Hearts” campaign to help fund a rehabilitation toolkit for young heart patients recovering from surgery.

Dominic said that meeting Riley has helped him to understand what young heart patients and their families go through.

“When you know you are doing the challenge for a reason it will be a great motivation for us to keep going,” he said.

“It will really helps me having in my mind someone like Riley to keep me going on the tandem challenge and break the record. I hope the fundraising will also make a difference for Riley and others like him in the future.”

Riley’s mother, Bradford schoolteacher Kathryn Walker, said it was important that more research into heart disease was done to help children like Riley.

“It would be great if Dominic can break a record that has stood for so many years,” she said. “He’s doing an amazing thing in trying to help children like Riley. We have met many children, even on Riley’s short journey in life, who are going through the same things as him.”

Riley suffers from the rare and serious condition, truncus arteriosis where there is just one large artery leaving the pumping chambers of the heart instead of the two normal vessels – the pulmonary artery and aorta – and operations are needed to correct it.

Kathryn, who teaches at Westminster Primary School in Bradford, said as long as Riley remained healthy and his main heart arteries continued to work properly, then he wouldn’t immediately need another operation, but he will still need further surgery when he gets older.

“For Riley the more research being done the better, as the prognosis is that he will need further surgery at some stage,” she added.

Dominic and Glenn will travel the 832 miles between Land’s End and John O’Groats, and to break the record, which has stood since 1966, they will have to do the journey in less than 50 hours, 14 minutes and 25 seconds.

Dominic, managing partner of Ilkley-based Epiphanies, a learning development and leadership consultancy, failed in his attempt to break the record last year, but has been practicing on the tandem – built by Orbit of Gargrave near Skipton – and is prepared for the challenge.

The Helping Little Hearts campaign is a project that will give children born with heart defects or have had heart surgery a rehabilitation toolkit to help them lead healthy and physically active lives.

Barbara Harpham, National Director, Heart Research UK, said: “We are delighted that Dominic and Glenn have chosen Heart Research UK and our ‘Helping Little Hearts’ campaign for this monumental challenge.

“Adults are offered rehabilitation when they have had heart problems but this rarely happens with children. We want them to be able to do extraordinary things by knowing what exercise to do and how much.

“Some, like Riley, have been through such a lot. They deserve to have every opportunity to live healthy, happy, longer lives and be as active as possible.”

• Visit www.mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/tandemchallenge to sponsor Dominic and Glenn.