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Amputee, 70, aims to complete 1km swim

Cris Barlow who lost a leg is taking part in Bury Rotary Swimathon
Cris Barlow who lost a leg is taking part in Bury Rotary Swimathon

Just over four years ago, Cris Barlow had his left leg amputated after suffering an aneurysm on Christmas Eve.

The Rotary Club of Bury St Edmunds vice-president says he has surprised even himself with his exploits in the intervening years.

Cris Barlow who lost a leg is taking part in Bury Rotary Swimathon ANL-160229-144954009
Cris Barlow who lost a leg is taking part in Bury Rotary Swimathon ANL-160229-144954009

Perhaps that is why the 70-year-old remains unfazed by the prospect of swimming one kilometre at this year’s Rotary swimmathon.

“I thought, rather than stand on the edge counting lengths, I would have a crack myself,” said Mr Barlow, from School Road in Risby.

“I am going to try to do 40 lengths in one and half hours. Training is going well and I don’t want to fail.”

Mr Barlow remembers vividly the events which led to him losing his leg. He had been at a bar with colleagues from an accountancy firm in Colchester. As he left, he fell and twisted an ankle.

Although in pain, he made it to Sudbury where he was picked up by his wife, Sue.

“I had not been drinking, but was struggling to walk and when Sue picked me up she asked me what was wrong,” said Mr Barlow.

“We went straight to hospital and the doctor immediately recognised I had a serious problem. I was taken to Addenbrooke’s in an ambulance.”

An aneurysm – a swelling in the wall of an artery – had developed in the back of Mr Barlow’s leg and had burst. Doctors operated, but were unable to save the leg, which was amputated above the knee on December 30, 2011.

“It was a bit of a shock,” said Mr Barlow. “They also later discovered I had the same problem in the right leg, but managed to save it. It was another six months before I started walking with my new prosthetic metal leg.”

Despite the loss of a limb, Mr Barlow refused to be restricted in his activities. A keen golfer, he was soon back out on the green.

“To start with I really struggled,” he said. “Now I play three times a week and have a handicap of 19. I putt one-handed very well, which annoys people.”

Mr Barlow also enjoys sailing, but admits he does occasionally have to give in to his limitations.

“It is not as easy as I would like and can be frustrating,” he said. “I have to watch my wife carrying the shopping, and I can’t mow the lawn.

“But I have surprised myself, especially with swimming, which I only did on holiday before. Turning is the hardest part.”

The third annual Rotary swimathon takes place at Abbeycroft Leisure Centre on March 20 from 2pm to 5pm.

Funds raised will go to East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) and CLIC Sargent. Last year £7,000 was raised from the event for EACH.


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