Mother joins trek for Chestnut Tree House

Joanna Hills, from St Leonards, is taking part in the Chestnut Tree House China Challenge. 8/9/14 SUS-140809-145345001
Joanna Hills, from St Leonards, is taking part in the Chestnut Tree House China Challenge. 8/9/14 SUS-140809-145345001

A mother who survived a near-death experience is one of the first people to be joining the Chestnut Tree House China Challenge next year – despite having the ‘knees of an 83-year-old’.

Joanna Hills, of St Leonards-on-Sea, has pledged to join the Poling-based charity’s fundraiser next year which could raise thousands for Sussex’s only children’s hospice.

The 42-year-old said it was ‘fate’ that she would be embarking on the adventure, as trekking the Great Wall of China was on the ‘bucket list’ she created after surviving a harrowing ordeal which left her close to death, four years ago.

Joanna, of Reedswood Road, explained that in 2010 she needed an operation to remove her gall bladder.

During the routine procedure the surgeon discovered that the operation was more complicated than he first thought as her gall bladder was stuck to her liver, which forced him to cut away part of the organ to remove the gall bladder.

“While I was on the operating table my blood pressure just plummeted,” she said. “I almost died.”

Joanna’s condition stabilised and doctors were able to complete the operation.

However, while the mother-of-two was recovering from the anaesthetic and waking up, her blood pressure dropped dramatically yet again.

“I wasn’t really conscious but I could feel what felt like a slab of concrete pushing down on my chest.

“I was laying there and hearing all these noises and alerts going off near me. I was just thinking that some poor soul must be very unwell not realising that poor soul was me.”

Joanna, who works as a care nurse at St Paul’s Care Home, in Albany Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, said that somewhere in her subconscious she realised she was in trouble.

“I just had to start really fighting. I knew that I didn’t want to die.”

After surviving her near-death experience, Joanna wrote a bucket list, which included doing a parachute jump, getting a tattoo, riding a helicopter and a hot air balloon as well as climbing the Great Wall.

She has already ticked off one of them by getting a tattoo on her wrist designed by her 14-year-old son Ashley.

But now she hopes to be able to finally achieve her second wish.

She was inspired to join the China challenge after completing the Chestnut Tree House’s Night to Remember midnight walk, in Eastbourne, earlier this year.

But her latest task certainly won’t be a walk in the park for her.

She suffers from stage four arthritis in both her knees, which makes moving very painful.

“I’ve got the knees of an 83-year-old but that’s not going to stop me!”

She needs to raise at least £2,800 and will be holding fund-free casino night, on November 22, at Crowhurst Park, in Battle.

The event opens at 7.30pm and is £15 a ticket, which will include a finite number of casino chips, disco and buffet. The winner of the evening, with the most chips, will win a prize.

To book, call the park 01424 773344.

Joanne lives with her son, husband Colin and daughter Kimberley, 11.

To join the Great Wall trek, see or call 01903 706355.