"Mr and Mrs Robinson. Its time to say goodbye to Joe". These 11 harrowing words are words a Mum and Dad should never be told. Unfortunately my Mum and Dad were told these. Twice.
The last 10 years have been very long, very tough and incredibly challenging. However, with the help of so many people; surgeons, consultants, psychologists, occupation therapists, physiotherapists and so on, my sister and I are about to embark upon our toughest challenge yet...
"The Toughest Race on Earth" (The Discovery Channel) - The Marathon des Sables is a 250km race split over six days in the heart of the Sahara Desert. Temperatures will reach in excess of 50 degrees celsius and Grace and I will have to carry all of our equipment (including food) in our back packs. The toughest day is day four where we have to take on the double-marathon. This will be after having already covered over 100km in the first three days. The heat, the distance, the 15kg+ back packs on our backs and the never ending sand dunes will be sure to be the toughest challenge we can ever take part in.
Whilst Grace and I are out in the desert, it will be exactly 10 years since I was involved in a fatal road traffic accident, April 7th 2009. My Mum and Dad were told I had a 3% chance of surviving the first night. After the first week they were then told I had a 95% chance of paralysis.
In the early morning of April 7th 2009 I was a back seat passenger in a crash that not only killed a close friend of mine, but left me struggling. I broke my back in three different places, my neck in two difference places and a large fracture across my skull. Whilst I was in an induced coma for almost a month, I picked up MRSA, meningitis and pneumonia. Although I was told I was never going to walk again, they gave me little hope of being able to talk and see (due to the brain damage).
Despite the on-going challenges of living with a severe brain injury and the continual neck and back pain, it only felt right to do something extraordinary 10 years later. The 10 years have been long, tough and unknown, but when Grace suggested this mammoth event it simply had to be a yes.
The guiding light
Since February 12th 1992 I have had the most amazing younger sister in my life. She has always been there for me and supported Mum, Dad and I through thick and thin. Words simply can't describe how amazing she has been over the last 10 years especially.
Like she has been over the last 10 years, and since she was born, she will be by my side every step of the way in the Sahara. Helping, supporting and guiding me through the heat and the never ending sand dunes. Whatever happens when we are out in the desert, I know I am safe when I have my wingman by my side.
Grace and I are raising money for a wonderful charity called Walk Once More. Their mission statement is to find a cure for Spinal Cord Injury. They are committed to financially supporting the most promising curative advances across the globe. This will help hasten the time period from laboratory to bedside, helping the injured to cast aside their wheelchairs and get back on their feet as soon as possible. Putting an end to the permanence of this devastating injury will result in millions of people across the world being freed from a life of paralysis, pain and loss of independence and dignity.
Grace's dear friend was involved in a life-changing spinal cord injury during a rugby match which has left him paralysed and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Our Dad sustained a serious back injury when he was younger which continues to cause pain and suffering in his everyday life.
For all the reasons already mentioned regarding my experience, this is a charity Grace and I are excited to support due to the continual back problems that I face during my day-to-day life.
Any amounts, large or small, really will mean the world to both Grace and I and Walk Once More.
Thank you so much for reading.
One step, one sand dune, one desert at a time, please help us change lives.