The 21-mile swim through the freezing waters of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes would be enough to daunt even someone at the peak of physical fitness.
However Rob had another hurdle to overcome – the 44-year-old businessman suffers from Crohn’s disease and assumed that the cold temperatures would exacerbate the crippling abdominal pains he regularly suffered. What he did not expect was that the icy seawater would actually relieve his agony.
There are around 115,000 Crohn’s sufferers in the UK. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, extreme tiredness and weight loss, all of which affect Rob.
Most common in westernised countries, the exact cause of Crohn’s is unknown but it may be inherited – although not in Rob’s case – or caused by the immune system attacking healthy bacteria in the gut.
There is no cure but the correct treatment can stop inflammation, relieve symptoms and avoid surgery where possible. Steroids are usually prescribed initially, followed by immunosuppressants but in some cases surgery is needed to remove the inflamed section of intestine.
Rob developed the disease when he was 20. “It started with pain in my abdomen and I thought I’d pulled something, he remembers. Rapid weight loss followed but it was only when I’d lost a couple of stone that I started to notice.