16-year-old Caterham resident Ella Patterson is in training to run two half-marathons in February, to raise money for her dad Andy, who has the rare genetic disorder hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP). This progressive disease causes the muscles and tendons in his legs to weaken and stiffen, and will eventually confine him to a wheelchair. In some cases, it can also cause other debilitating symptoms and greater body weakness. It is irreversible and incurable.
Before his diagnosis in 2013, Belfast-born Andy led an extremely active life. A keen sportsman, he played cricket for Ireland’s national team between 1996 and 2001, as well as at county level for Sussex and Bedfordshire. After leaving professional sport he began working at a school in Caterham, teaching cricket and hockey. It was around this time he noticed that something was affecting both his balance and his ability to walk, resulting in his diagnosis of HSP.
Following increased deterioration in his mobility, Andy began to rely on a walking aid for short distances, but this soon had to be swapped for a trolley walking aid, which is now essential for his movements.
There is hope for Andy, however, in the form of new life-changing surgery, which could allow him to walk unaided once more, as well as possibly preventing further deterioration. It is currently only available in the United States though, and costs approximately £70,000. There is also an added time pressure: the surgery needs to be performed before Andy is forced to use a wheelchair, which doctors estimate to be in approximately six months.
Ella has already raised more than £10,000 via her Just Giving page, but she hopes to raise even more through her half-marathon attempts:
“Dad will never be able to run or play sport again, but this operation could give him the opportunity to walk freely, leave his house without assistance and live his life again. All I want is for him to be happy.”
Donate at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/helping-my-dad.