A FORMER mechanic who has faced a mountain of health challenges since being struck down by a rare neurological condition is to take to the hills for charity.
Passionate fell walker Kenneth Longstaff is to tackle Latrigg in the Lake District with a specially adapted wheelchair and the help of a Teesside running club.
The 60-year-old, of Darlington, has already raised close to £1,200 in sponsorship for Saturday’s challenge (June 8), which will be divided between St Teresa’s Hospice and the KeyRing disability support group, based at St Columba’s Church, Clifton Avenue.
Stockton running club Orchard Eagles, accompanied by a BBC documentary film crew, will tackle the fundraising ascent with Kenneth and his family.
In 2012 Kenneth was struck down by the neurological condition Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system causing the body to shut down.
He spent three and a half years in hospital, including a year in James Cook’s intensive care unit, and still needs 24 hour care at his home, after becoming one of the most serious cases ever seen by his consultant.
“I was a passionate fell walker and love the Lakes so when one of my carers’ husbands, David Barugh, who is in Orchard Eagles Running Club, suggested the sponsored walk I immediately said yes,” he said.
“I have such limited mobility now so one of the few things I can do is art and I paint Lakeland landscapes from my memory, which I do at KeyRing every Wednesday.
“After GBS took hold I attended the day centre at St Teresa’s for more than a year. My wife Beverley and I both had counselling there and I also went for physio, acupuncture reflexology and massage. I met some remarkable people who were so positive despite what they were going through. KeyRing and St Teresa’s are such great organisations and this is a chance to give something back.”
Kenneth and his family are being filmed for a documentary on GBS produced by Poppy Goodheart for BBC4 and directed by Xavier Alford who has been diagnosed with a progressive form of the condition.
“It is rare but for those who get it GBS wrecks lives and there is only limited research into the condition,” Kenneth said.
“I was fine until one day I suddenly couldn’t see. I went to A&E where I started to lose the function of my limbs. About 24 hours later I was in respiratory arrest, on a ventilator and only able to hear. As well as raising money with the walk, it’s great to be part of a documentary which will raise awareness of the condition.”
Chief executive of St Teresa’s Hospice Jane Bradshaw said: “This condition really does put patients and their families through the mill and we were delighted to be there to do what we could to help Bev and Ken.
“It is amazing that they are now tackling this Lakes expedition, what a brilliant effort, and by doing so helping to keep our services running for the people of Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.”
Anyone wanting to help to Kenneth’s fundraising efforts can donate via https://www.gofundme.com/clime-a-mountain.