Sunday 13 September is the date set for Patrick Burke’s challenging walk to raise funds for the Chilterns MS Centre, a therapy centre for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) based in Wendover. Patrick Burke, aged 66, of Cowper Road, Berkhamsted has been training for the walk since June and hopes to raise at least £10,000. The walk will commence at 12 noon.
Mr Burke is severely disabled by MS and cannot do what other people take for granted, such as running, skipping and hopping. In fact, Patrick’s ability to do something as simple as walk is severely impaired and he must concentrate on just lifting one leg and putting it in front of the other whenever he wants to walk. He cannot walk and talk at the same time.
‘The walk will be a huge challenge for me in so many ways. My limit at present is 45 minutes. The length of time that I can walk is limited by muscular fatigue and poor balance. Walking for an hour will knock me out physically for a couple of days,’ says Mr Burke.
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord and is different for everyone. In Mr Burke’s case, one of the effects of the disease is the transmission of messages from the brain to the left leg and foot muscles. As a result, he cannot lift his foot off the ground or hold his leg in the air.
Mr Burke cannot walk unaided. He must use a four-wheeled walker, which he must hold onto with both hands to maintain his balance. He uses a clever electrical device to stimulate muscles so that he can lift his leg and take small steps and, if he manages to walk as far as 750 metres in the hour he will be extremely pleased.
‘For me, It feels like I’m walking in water,’ says Mr Burke. ‘It is very tiring, and my walking is excruciatingly slow. If I tried walking with walking sticks or crutches, I would just fall over.’
Mr Burke was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis in 1995, though his symptoms started in 1972. In 2000, the disease morphed into Secondary Progressive MS and he took medical retirement in 2012. He is a regular visitor to the Chilterns MS Centre for physiotherapy, group exercise and one to one help to manage the disease.
Lauren Parker, Community Fundraising Manager at the Chilterns MS Centre commented: ‘As a small charity we are so lucky to have such incredible support of our members and supporters, especially people like Patrick. Fundraising enables us to continue to run the centre and support the many individuals affected by this incurable condition. With pretty much all of our events and collections cancelled by Covid, we are still in need of funds to help us keep going through to our 35th birthday in September and beyond.’
Mr Burke concluded: ‘There are so many factors motivating me to do this – I want to prove to myself that I can walk for an hour. And another big motivation is seeing how much money I can raise for the charity, which is an oasis for people like me with MS in this area and the support they provide is quite outstanding.
‘I really hope that people will be able to come and support me. The walk will be at the MS Therapy Centre in Halton (HP22 5LX) on Sunday 13 September starting at 12 noon.’
To make a donation, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/walk4onehour.