Bringing home the bacon to raise awareness of epilepsy

A British man in Copenhagen is turning tragedy into action with a 1,500 km charity bike ride

Tan Farrell has never been much of a cyclist. He rarely got on a bicycle when he lived in Britain, and even after moving here, the most he ever cycles is a couple of kilometres to and from work. 

But now he’s training for a bike ride that is considered long even by the most seasoned of cyclists: a 14-day expedition from Copenhagen to Warrington, England.

“I’m cycling from my new home to my old home,” he said.

Farrell’s motivation for this charity bike ride, aptly named ‘Bringing Home the Bacon’, is his little sister Felicity, who died in her sleep in 2008 from an epileptic seizure when she was just 15 years old.

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) isn’t uncommon. About 1,000 people die suddenly from epileptic seizures in the UK each year, most of them between the ages of nine and 25. That’s more than those who die from AIDS. The Farrell family wasn’t told that Felicity’s condition could be fatal, never mind the fact that bed-mounted equipment can be purchased to monitor seizures at night.

“When my sister got diagnosed with epilepsy, no-one said she could die from it,” he said. “She died five months after being diagnosed.”

Now, Farrell and his family are hoping to raise awareness about SUDEP with a charity bike ride around Europe that will span six countries and require them to peddle an average 110km each day. Money raised from the ride via sponsors and donations will go to Epilepsy Action, England’s largest epilepsy charity.

Farrell’s started casually cycling the streets of Copenhagen when he moved here to be with his Danish girlfriend a few years ago. Since then, his cycling experience has mainly consisted of a few kilometres a day to and from work. His father and brothers, who will accompany him on the ride, have biked even less. The three have started an intense training programme to get in shape for the ride, which is chronicled in their blog.

Farrell said that the ride will be both physically challenging and emotionally therapeutic for him. He was a busy university student when his sister died and later became preoccupied with living in Copenhagen. But now his life has settled down, Farrell has more time to reflect.

“It didn’t really affect me as much. I came home, grieved with my family for a month and then went back,” he said. “It was important for me to do something eventually.”
The tour will end on the fourth anniversary of when Felicity died, providing a reminder of why the three rode all that way in the first place.

“It’s tragic that this can actually happen,” said Farrell. “And it’s especially tragic that it’s all young people.”

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.