Cycling tribute in memory of Charlie
When Matthew Pegler’s dear friend Charlie Miller died in January this year aged 30, he was devastated. But inspired by Charlie’s character and determination to live as normal life as he possibly could while suffering from a kidney condition, Matthew has decided to channel his grief into fundraising for Kidney Research UK.
Throughout 2021, Matthew has been taking part in the charity’s #850Challenge, clocking up the miles during lengthy off-road mountain bike outings. He’s just about to reach his target, but aims to continue until he’s hit 1,000 miles by the end of the year.
The life and soul of the workplace
Matthew, 40, says, “We worked at a grounds maintenance company. In the 10 years we worked together, I never once heard Charlie complain despite the heavy duty physical nature of our work. He was simply the life and soul of the workplace and our friendship group. He was a bit of a doughnut, always doing something silly, but he was completely trustworthy and a great friend.”
While on dialysis, Charlie could only drink 500mls of liquid a day, even in summer. His symptoms meant his body retained fluids and he ballooned. His diet was restricted, and he could not eat certain things, such as bananas. But, says Matthew, “Charlie never grumbled. He was keen to make life as normal as possible and to have as much fun as he could. Our group of friends never treated him any differently from anyone else.”
Charlie developed the kidney condition focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) at the age of 10. Within two years, both his kidneys were removed and he was on home dialysis for nine months. He was placed on the kidney transplant list and was fortunate to get a match and donor 11 days later.
That kidney lasted 13 years, and this allowed Charlie to finish school, attend college and complete a plastering course with a 100 per cent attendance. As the kidney began to fail, Charlie went onto haemodialysis three evenings a week, continuing to work throughout.
After two years, Charlie received a second transplant and was looking forward to “becoming a normal human being again”, as he called it.
Unfortunately, there were complications and he had to go off sick. During the pandemic, he attended hospital appointments weekly at the Royal Free.
Despite not being able to see him in person, Matthew says, “We had Zoom calls for his birthday and over Christmas. It was great to chat to him and it was just like a normal gathering for our friends, with everyone messing about, cracking jokes, and having a laugh together.”
Sadly, the combination of a Covid-19 infection and his kidney condition was too much for Charlie’s body to take and Matthew lost his very dear friend. The group were devastated and deeply upset.
Inspired by Charlie
“It affected people differently,” says Matthew. “There’s a massive hole in our social group now. My best mate, who was his best friend, is in pieces. He doesn’t know what to do with himself. Charlie was the one people confided in, he was reliable and dependable.”
Because of Covid restrictions, there was a small funeral and Matthew and his friends watched on a live feed outside the church, before meeting Charlie’s family afterwards.
Matthew, who has done many fundraising challenges in the past, decided he would start raising money for Kidney Research UK. The #850 Challenge was perfect for him, as he prefers off-road biking to road races, and he aims to raise £850.
“I find getting out on my bike is good for my mental health and it’s so rewarding that at the same time I’m helping to raise money to continue the fight against kidney disease. I’ve seen how kidney diseases ruins lives, and how vital research is.
“Being out there on my own on the bike gives me the chance to think about Charlie as well, and it takes my mind off the day-to-day stresses.
“There’s a real camaraderie on the #850 Challenge Facebook Group and it’s interesting to hear other people’s stories and to find out why they are fundraising, too”.
Dad-of-three Matthew says his children are supportive, especially his youngest daughter who has recently removed the stabilisers from her bike. “They all knew Charlie, and he came to my wedding,” he says.
Later this year Matthew will team up with some of Charlie’s friends to do the Dirty Santa Christmas Trail Ride, and then next year he’ll be looking for a new challenge to do in Charlie’s memory.
It doesn’t sound like he’ll stop fundraising any time soon! If you’d like to donate to Matthew’s fundraising challenge, visit his JustGiving page.
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