A paramedic from Sheffield who shed more than half his body weight by cycling to work has gone even further by conquering a 1,000-mile bike ride.
Gary Matthews, aged 43, put on almost 12 stone after two painful football injuries left him unable to play his favourite sport.
But, when he tipped the scales at 27 stone, Gary decided to change his lifestyle and began cycling to work every day to lose the weight.
After shedding the pounds he was offered the chance to cycle 1,000 miles from London to Nice in France, as the medic on standby for British Army troops – and he completed the challenge for Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity.
“The cycling expedition seemed the ideal way to celebrate my weight loss,” he said.
“No matter how heavy I got I always enjoyed a good bike ride, so it seemed the ideal way to exercise. I lost seven stone in just nine months of cycling, then the rest over the next few years.”
Gary added: “From the age of 18 I worked as a hospital porter and I’d always been inspired by the work of the paramedics. I knew that if I wanted to become one, I would have to lose the weight. Not only that, I found out in 2002 my wife Jo was pregnant. I wanted to be an active father, not a fat one.”
As a child, Gary underwent 13 operations at the children’s hospital for an ear condition, and went on to work as a porter for more than 10 years, leaving to become a paramedic with East Midlands Ambulance Service. Originally from Jordanthorpe, he now lives in Skegness.
“To use the bike ride as a chance to raise money for the hospital was second nature to me,” said the avid Owls fan, whose son Elliott is now 10.
Gary cycled alongside his friend, Sergeant Major John Wozniak, and in total they raised more than £500.
“The children’s hospital is an amazing facility with fantastic staff,” said Gary.
“I often have to transfer patients to Sheffield, and many of my old colleagues don’t recognise me because of my weight loss!”