Ten years ago I lost the ability to walk. It happened suddenly after a series of unexplained falls and was compounded by an accompanying loss of use of my hands.
I went from being a reasonably fit and able 53-year-old, doing a job I loved, promoting the housing association sector with the National Housing Federation, to someone who simply could not function to achieve many of the basic everyday things that we so take for granted.
My walking ability overnight was reduced to the slowest of shuffles and my hands swelled up to make the simplest task almost impossible. I could no longer write, use keyboards and even had to ask for my food to be cut up.
The NHS response was magnificent - as it is so often in a crisis – I was rushed through a series of tests, scans and medical consultations in order to rule out the most alarming possibilities. Some weeks later I was grateful to a senior neurologist who concluded that the falls were not, as previously thought, symptoms of a serious illness, but the catalyst for the resulting effects.
The first fall on an underground escalator ended with a back pack containing a laptop hitting me on the back of the neck just as I was about to get up and this probably resulted in subsequent falls and the loss of mobility. He said the brain was receiving faulty messages from my nervous system that my hands and feet no longer existed – branded acute peripheral neuropathy.
Apart from medication to rectify these ‘faulty signals’, I had to teach myself slowly to walk again.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I felt I was given a second chance. At the lowest points I thought I would never walk or work again and long-held retirement dreams of cruising our wonderful inland waterways system instantly evaporated.
Six months on – and with the terrific support of my wife and employers – I was back functioning relatively normally and could once again look over the horizon with optimism.
It taught me that well worn lesson of making the most of better health to do the things we want to and enjoy while we can, as we never know when it might come to a crashing halt!
A decade on – including 6 years divided between that exhilarating narrowboat dream brought forward and continued work in the social housing and charity sector – I have decided to embark on a personal challenge in a bid to help other people have that second chance of opportunity they may have thought lost.
It will involve walking the Trans-Pennine Trail from Southport on the West Coast to Hornsea beyond Hull on the East Coast along with loops around Liverpool and Leeds – a solo trek of some 250 miles across a most varied but beautiful rural landscape while also embracing city centres, industrial heritage, bridleways and appropriately canal towpaths.
I am seeking sponsorship to raise funds for homeless people who want to rebuild their lives but just need that help and support with those crucial first steps back on the ladder of hope.
Individual Emmaus Charities across the UK provide a home, meaningful work and a sense of belonging for people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion. They provide a home for as long as someone needs it in a safe community, giving people the opportunity to take stock of their lives, deal with any issues they might have and often re-establish relationships with loved ones.
This international model – operating since 1991 in England – works amazingly effectively and so this walk –marking my second chance ten years on – is also hoping to raise crucial funds to support the work of Emmaus charities on Merseyside and Hull (the two ends of the trail), at the midway point of Leeds, as well as Oxford and Gloucestershire which lie within the operating area of GreenSquare Housing Group where last year I completed the maximum 9 years as a Board Member.
The aim is to undertake this trek in October 2018 – but I need to raise the necessary sponsorship first to help give others their Second Chance.
Any help you could offer to support my aim of raising much needed funds for the 5 Emmaus Charities would be most appreciated.
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