In February 2014, a year after being rushed into intensive care, I celebrated my being up and walking again by taking my prosthetic 'pins' for a wee stroll along Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Many friends joined and supported me along the way, making it a lovely event! It was a very symbolic walk, also meant to support the work of 500 miles, a charity that strives to provide amputees from some of the poorest parts of Africa with prosthetic limbs, to help them stand up and walk again too. Thank you all for your wonderful support!
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My parents have vivid memories of it: I was just over 10 months old when I first walked. I clearly have no recollection of it, but there is another day I will never forget: that is, when I started walking again, on 19 November 2013, this time aged 36 years and on prosthetic legs. Indeed, 9 months earlier, a sudden and violent infection had led to my quadruple amputation - the only way to save my life. What bliss, after 3 months spent lying in a hospital bed, followed by 6 in a wheelchair, to be able to stand up and walk! And thus was born 'Project Vertical'.
What is Project Vertical about? I would like it to be a sign of my gratitude towards my wonderful fiancé, my parents, my brother, our families and friends, and all staff who cared for me in various hospitals in Livingston and Edinburgh. Above all, I wish Project Vertical to be about giving other disabled people who are less fortunate than me the chance to stand up again and regain their independence. That is exactly what the charity 500 miles do: they strive 'to get disabled people in Africa up and walking'. I would love my wee project to support their worthy cause.
Why 500 miles? Because it was set up by Olivia Giles, an Edinburgh-based quadruple amputee herself. Her story and mine are strangely similar, a decade apart. Olivia has been an invaluable source of strength and hope at the grimmest of times for my fiancé, my parents and indeed myself, and continues to inspire us. 500 miles know how much of a difference the provision of prostheses or orthoses can make to a disabled person's life. They estimate that the average price of one such device from one of their centres in Malawi or Zambia is £60 - far beyond what poor people could ever afford.
I expect Project Vertical to take various shapes and forms in future. Its first incarnation is a very short, symbolic walk in central Edinburgh, in February 2014 - the opportunity to highlight the work of 500 miles and do a bit of fundraising! And to take in some of Edinburgh's iconic landmarks, of course.
Watch this space!
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