Kiko Matthews made history on March 22 by becoming the fastest woman to ever row across the Atlantic Ocean solo and unsupported. Not only did she crush the previous record by a week, but she did it eight months after having a tumor removed from the base of her brain stem.
The 36-year-old former schoolteacher from Herefordshire, England had never rowed before taking on the 59-day, 2,800-mile challenge from Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s Canary Island’s, to Barbados.
“The thought that eight months ago I was lying in hospital having my brain operated on, and now I am here having rowed the Atlantic, I guess I am a bit proud,” Matthews told The Guardian upon arriving in the Caribbean. “I have shown that anyone can attempt anything given the right attitude, belief and support. I want to use my story to inspire women to challenge themselves.”
After 16 hrs of rowing, a failed electrical & GPS system (20nm from land), praying my autopilot wouldn’t die, no time to stop for breakfast or lunch, I finally made it to North Point, #Barbados – relief to see my pilot boat & the end to some very happy (& less so) days! #kikorow pic.twitter.com/1jJbaylXMO
— Kiko Matthews (@Kikomatthews) March 28, 2018
Doctors discovered that Matthews had a tumor pressing on her pituitary gland in 2009, which led to a diagnosis of Crushing’s disease. She received treatment for that, but in August of 2017, the tumor returned, and after undergoing more surgery, she spent many more days in the ICU at King’s College Hospital in London.
That’s why her mission to row across the Atlantic was two-fold: to arrive in Barbados in one piece, and to raise money to build for King’s College Hospital Trust so they can build a new ICU.
At the time of this writing, she’s raised nearly $120,000, according to her JustGiving page. Her goal? £100,000, which equates to about $141,000.
This 121-bed unit will be the first of it’s kind, offering fresh air, natural light and outdoor garden for patient wellbeing.
The 31 days I spent in Kings, including those spent in the ICU, were the most critical, and the most horrendous of my life.
My abiding memory is of seeing my mother’s pain-stricken face each day, and seeing her fear that I was about to die.
I am SO grateful to the King’s staff and supporters for pulling me and my family through that awful time.
After Matthews’ initial diagnosis in 2009, she quit her job as a teacher and launched The Big Stand, a non-profit organization that uses standup paddleboarding to empower, educate, inspire and improve lives.
As for how she rowed almost 3,000 miles by herself in some of the harshest waters in the world?
“It’s not about having lots of money to do things, it’s not about having lots of skills and it’s not about knowing loads of people. If we put our minds to it, if we’re positive, then [we’ll] do it,” Matthews said in a documentary trailer.
The proof is 3,000 miles long.
If you’d like to make a contribution to the cause, visit Matthews’ JustGiving page.