Hi I’m Stewie
I grew up in a warm loving family with my two older brothers. I was very active and loved team sports, especially Rugby. When I was 15 I joined the local Army Cadets and it introduced me to activities and opportunities that I really loved. When I was old enough I signed up to be an Army Reservist, I loved the team work, discipline and the socialising. I thrived in the army exercises and loved getting muddy whilst also shooting rifles and donning the war paint.
When the opportunity came I made the ‘Army life’ my fulltime occupation and my first posting was with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Unit. My friends thought I was crazy but the training and camaraderie was brilliant. I spent 9 years in that unit before I joined the Transport Regiment in 2000. Whilst I never served aboard in conflict we were a vital cog in the British Military and the team work and responsibility was a great experience. I’ve got many great memories which will last forever, including many laughs and practical jokes – many which I was responsible for!
Away from army life I had a busy house with a wife and four children, this bought with it a lot of pressures. I decided to take a step back from the army to focus more on my family and I found a less stressful and time consuming job with a logistics company. It was here that I started having health issues which specifically affected my balance. I didn’t think
too much of it at the time and put it down to tiredness but my Mum started to get concerned and made me go and see the GP.
After an initial consultation I was referred for further investigations. What followed were CT scans, MRI scans, a lumber puncture and the results left me shocked. It was 2012 and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). From that moment I had to stop driving so on medical grounds I had to give up my job and I was discharged from the Army, the love of my life. It was really hard to take as I was also going through some personal issues. My Mum and my children saved me with lots of love and support and after being referred to the Bradley Unit at Woking Community Hospital I was able to recuperate. The Bradley Unit specialises in neuro rehabilitation and they helped manage my expectations and were able to provide treatment and advice. The Occupational Therapists (OTs) also helped in modifying my house to make life easier for me in the future.
I then realised that having MS didn’t mean I was going to fall apart straight away, there was still a life to live and being the positive person I have always been I wanted to make the most of things.
During that time, a physiotherapist at the Bradley Unit mentioned that I should consider going to White Lodge. My condition was worsening but in 2015 I made contact with the White Lodge team and from the moment I was invited for an assessment and the Adult Therapies team simply transformed my life. They made me feel so welcomed and introduced me to group therapy with other MS sufferers and also personal 1-2-1 therapy.
I can sadly no longer walk and am wheelchair bound. However, I can still cycle using my legs and I utilise my arms using their specialist gym equipment. The team always give me something to work towards and for someone like me, and my Army background, I need objectives to keep me motivated.
The best thing has been training for the Super Hero Tri which is an empowering team triathlon for people of all abilities. I was so proud to take part in the inaugural event in 2017 and I had a fantastic team of able-bodied people around me to get me through it. I was able to cycle 5 Km on a specially adapted tandem bike and I propelled my wheelchair through the run element. It was an exhilarating experience and I did it again in 2018, raising a nice amount of money for White Lodge. Also being the clown I am, I loved wearing my jesters hat all the way round!
The thing that also makes White Lodge so special is the people. Not just the people that work there but also the other service users. It’s such an inclusive place and everyone is on equal terms no matter what their ability is. I just love the banter I have and I enjoy trying to motivate my fellow sufferers. It’s so easy to get down on yourself and at times the physiotherapy can be quite testing but I always like to raise morale and keep everyone going.
The Army taught me many things but one that will always live with me is, ‘no matter how tough it is, you’ll always find a way. I certainly won’t let this horrible illness defeat me!
It’s a shame there aren’t more place like White Lodge but whilst I’m alive I’ll do what I can to make the most of it and help raise awareness of the lifeline services that it provides.
Great news is that during Tues 27th November – Tues 4th December your donation to White Lodge will be doubled through match funding. So your one donation will make twice the impact.
All monies raised will support the vital fitness and rehabilitation services that help to alleviate pain and keep us strong and moving. In a flash you can turn your fiver into a tenner, your tenner into twenty and do twice the good this Christmas.
Visit White Lodge Centre www.whitelodgecentre.co.uk