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Robin Hanbury-Tenison climbs highest peak in Cornwall five months after leaving hospital following COVID-19 battle

Robin Hanbury-Tension

Robin in the Secret Garden Earlier this year, 84-year-old Explorer, Robin Hanbury-Tenison spent seven weeks in intensive care at Derriford Hospital, including five weeks in an induced coma after testing positive for COVID-19. His family had been told to prepare for the worst and his chance of survival was less than 5%. On a wet and windy day five months later he was climbing Cornwall’s tallest peak, determined to plant the Cornish flag at the top.

“The moment when I actually woke up and knew that I was going to live was the moment when I was wheeled out by four nurses in a big bed with tubes coming out of everywhere and I arrived in the healing garden they’ve got at Derriford, I think the first in any hospital in England,” said Robin.

“I opened my eyes and saw the sunshine and saw the flowers and that was the moment that my life was saved by the healing power of nature.

“A lot of people asked me when I miraculously survived against all the odds, what my next challenge was going to be and obviously the first one was to get walking again because when I came out I could barely do 10 yards on my Zimmer frame. My wife Louella has been marvellous at encouraging me to do my exercises and now that I’m pretty well done with my physio, we’re concentrating on walking longer distances every day.”

Patients undergoing care in the intensive care unit (ICU) benefit from early psychological intervention and physical rehabilitation. Specialist senior Sister in intensive care, Kate Tantam said: “The evidence is clear that early physical intervention in ICU is safe, feasible, improves functional outcomes, decreases ventilator days, reduces delirium and decreases ICU and hospital length of stay.

“It is imperative that ICU patients are given maximum exposure to rehabilitation during their ICU admission. The Secret Garden allows the whole inter-professional team to promote, enhance and facilitate rehabilitation in a non-clinical setting, supporting patients and loved ones to feel normal and to engage with their rehabilitation needs and their future.”

The garden offers University Hospital Plymouth NHS Trust the opportunity to create the first ICU Rehabilitation space for patients, loved ones and staff in the UK.  The garden offers staff a fresh air, space for rest, in particular during the recent COVID pandemic where the restrictions of personal protective equipment have applied extra pressure to staff well-being.

Speaking ahead of his climb, Robin said: “Well exactly five months from May the 3rd is October the 3rd so I decided on that day I would climb Cornwall’s highest mountain, Brown Willy.”

Robin’s wife, Louella said: “We have worked him hard to get to this stage and it was, as we knew it would be a real challenge for him.  We hadn’t factored in Storm Alex and 60 mph winds on the top of Brown Willy but with me pulling, our son, Merlin and his wife LizzieRobin Hanbury-Tenison pushing the three of us we made it.

“It is more than wonderful to have him back in good health and thank you NHS and Derriford Hospital.  We found about 50 people had climbed Brown Willy to be with us on the top in bubbles of six, including Kate Tantam, the wonderful Specialist Sister in intensive care who created the healing garden at Derriford.” 

Robin is well on his way to raising £100,000, which he would like to donate to hospital gardens in the Southwest. If you would like to donate, please visit:



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