A FUNDRAISING drive to transform hundreds of patients’ lives has reached £10,000, just five weeks after its launch.

The Echo-backed AW80D takes five bicycles around Essex asking people to raise money and cycle the equivalent of 60 miles to achieve a target of 24,901.55 miles, or the circumference of the globe.

The campaign, inspired by Jules Verne’s epic “Around the World in Eighty Days” tale, has seen more than 10,000 miles accomplished since February 1, raising £10,000.

The bikes have been at a number of places, including the Royals shopping centre, in Southend.

The campaign aims to raise £600,000 for a new keyhole surgery theatre at Southend Hospital aimed at increasing the quality and quantity of a wide variety of the surgery.

Clair Gray, 41, understands more than most what such pioneering treatment can do.

Still recovering from having surgery last November, Clair, from Great Wakering, is in the full bloom of health, but her situation could have been quite different.

The volunteer at Southend Hospital underwent a hysterectomy, but complications led to part of her bowel being torn and she required a colostomy, in which a section of the large intestine is diverted through an opening in the stomach.

Further surgery was required to reverse the procedure, but open surgery would have meant a large incision in her stomach and a long recovery period.

Southend Hospital surgeon Esther Fine suggested a keyhole procedure to reattach her bowel. Mrs Gray said: “She told me she felt that by using laparoscopy, rather than open surgery, she could reattach my bowel. The keyhole procedure was less invasive and offered an almost complete chance of a full recovery.

“I was only in hospital for four days and although I’m still recovering, I’m back to volunteering, which I love.”

Mrs Gray, who is married to Alex and mum to two sons, Jacob, 13 and Joshua, 19, is pleased the appeal has already been a success.

She said: “I think it is amazing.

Unfortunately, I can’t cycle at the moment, but I want to get stuck into helping raise funds and creating further awareness.

“Creating a hi-tech operating theatre for people who require minimally invasive surgery at Southend Hospital will be of huge benefit to residents of the area and because laparoscopy isn’t widely known about, this is a really important campaign.”

To get involved in AW80D, visit www.sh-cf.org, contact Southend Hospital’s fundraisers on 01702 385337, or e-mail fundraising@southend.nhs.uk