6 brave NI women to swim English Channel in aid of rare metabolic condition

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A team of six women from NI are embarking on one of their most adventurous swims yet – the English Channel – and all to raise money for a special charity.

Andrea Judge-Guy, Grace McLaughlin, Nuala Glynn, Jane Reilly, her daughter Anna Reilly and Penny Nicholson are taking part in the mammoth challenge in June.

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Andrea Judge Guy, Grace McLaughlin, Nuala Glynn, Jane Reilly, Anna Reilly and Penny Nicholson are taking part in a relay swim of the English Channel in June in aid of charity. They are all from different parts of NI including Portadown, Bangor, Groomsport , Ballyholme and Newtownards.Andrea Judge Guy, Grace McLaughlin, Nuala Glynn, Jane Reilly, Anna Reilly and Penny Nicholson are taking part in a relay swim of the English Channel in June in aid of charity. They are all from different parts of NI including Portadown, Bangor, Groomsport , Ballyholme and Newtownards.
Andrea Judge Guy, Grace McLaughlin, Nuala Glynn, Jane Reilly, Anna Reilly and Penny Nicholson are taking part in a relay swim of the English Channel in June in aid of charity. They are all from different parts of NI including Portadown, Bangor, Groomsport , Ballyholme and Newtownards.

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Portadown native Andrea, aged 47, said: “We leave for Dover on June 10 and our swim window is June 11-20.”

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The team, called Misneach which is the Irish word for courage, plan to raise funds for The National Society For Phenylketonuria (NSPKU) as one of their members has this rare metabolic condition.

Penny, who is 20 and studying at Stranmillis to be a primary school teacher, was diagnosed by a heel-prick at birth with this condition which means she cannot metabolise phenylalanine, an amino acid found in protein foods. If these protein levels build up they can be toxic to the brain.

Andrea said the friends, who regularly swim together and compete in other events, decided to take on the notorious 21 mile stretch of the English Channel between England and France and help raise funds for the charity to which you can donate here.

Also taking part is vet Jane Reilly (56) and her 19-year-old daughter Anna who is a graphic designer. Teacher Grace McLaughlin is also taking part as is courier Nuala Glynn, aged 55. They all hail from various parts of NI including Bangor, Groomsport, Ballyholme and Newtonards.

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“We all came together through our love of the sport and hatched a plan. We all train individually through the week but usually meet up for group swims on a Sunday which usually happens in Groomsport and have been training for this swim for over one year,” said Andrea.

"We are no strangers channel swims as most of us have done relays of the North Channel and The dal Riata to name a few. We are so excited to be travelling over to Dover soon and are looking forward to the adventure that awaits us.”

Despite this rare condition, Penny hasn’t let it stop her live a full and sporting life.

She revealed: “I have been on a strict low protein diet all my life. At the start of last year I was on 12g of protein a day with a supplement to take three times a day to ensure I get the correct nutrients.

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"However, thanks to research a new drug has been released to help people with PKU. Sapropterin reduces blood phenylalanine concentrations and increases phenylalanine tolerance which has allowed me to go up to 38g of protein everyday which has been life changing. Previously I had never eaten any dairy or meat products as they were simply too high in protein!”

The aptly name of the team, Misneach, is more than just the Irish word for courage. It also denotes hopefulness, bravery, and spirit; all of which this team has displayed in spades and will continue to as they take on the 21 mile swim from England to France.