One life-changing moment for this Gloucester-man could lead to a momentous break-through

At the age of 17, and in a split second, Alex Paterson’s life changed forever.

One moment, Alex was riding his motorbike. The next, he was careering face-first towards a roadside tree, an impact that would almost certainly have killed him.

Having lost control in the split second it took him to nod in the direction of a couple of friends he spotted walking by, Alex saw the tree in time to move his head out of the way. It still wasn’t quickly enough.

Alex’s neck bore the full brunt of the impact. The weight of Alex’s passenger, riding pillion, unintentionally doubled the severity of the collision. It nearly tore a nerve from Alex’s spinal cord, an injury that would almost certainly have killed him.

With severe spinal injuries, Alex was immediately operated on. After a number of operations, it was decided that Alex’s arm should be amputated.

Alex’s survival with such an injury put him in the lucky 1%. 95% of people would have died. The other 4% would have been left paraplegic.

A split second lapse. A chance to change the future

Now a father of three and grandfather of five, 56 year old Alex has lived in pain for nearly 40 years. For the scout leader, recognised for his work with Gloucestershire’s Probation Service at the National Justice Awards and as a finalist in the Daily Mirror People’s Awards, and for many other amputees, there is hope.

Plastic Surgeon Dr Kang, The Royal Free Hospital and Dorset Prosthetics are looking for a guinea pig for cutting-edge pioneering surgery called TMR (Targeted Muscle Innervation) and prosthetic technology that could help thousands of others. Alex fits their criteria perfectly.

The treatment will connect the patient after surgery to a computer using a contact array of pins, where new ‘innervated’ muscles will be taught to communicate with the brain. If successful, stage two of the treatment is to build prosthetics that can sync with the newly active muscle tissue. This would enable the patient to use their prosthetic in the same way able-bodied people use their limbs and therefore prosthetics will react to brain impulses intuitively – and would also reduce or stop completely the debilitating phantom pain many feel after amputation.

The six month rehabilitation treatment, not currently available on the NHS, will cost £6,000 – and Gloucestershire-based charity Superhero Foundation is hoping the community Alex has selflessly served will support both him and the many people whose lives the treatment could change.

“The type of scientific breakthrough you only see once every few decades”

Alex said,

“This pioneering treatment could be the chance I and other amputees have been waiting for to live fuller, happier lives. It’s not just the mobility and function, it’s the chance we might not feel the excruciating phantom pains I’ve been dealing with for the last four decades now. I’ve always been a grin-it-and-bear-it type, but I’ve seen children dealing with lost limbs and it breaks my heart.

“There are a few potential complications that could arise, and as an older man, father and grandfather, I’d sooner be the canary down the mine than a child. If all goes well, this could be the type of scientific breakthrough you only see once every few decades. I’m not typically one to ask for help, but if people could rally around this treatment and donate towards it, they’d make that split second’s lapse worth every minute of pain I’ve felt since.”

The challenge – and leaving his prosthetics behind

Over the weekend of the 9th-11th June, Alex and seven other climbers will be attempting The Three Peaks Challenge.

The challenge will see the group conquer the three tallest mountains in England, Wales and Scotland in under 24 hours to raise money for the treatment.

At the summit of each mountain, Alex will be burying three arm sockets he’s relied upon for decades. In each, he will roll a copy of the story, in the hope future climbers might find them and be inspired by the unique time capsules.

Charity champion Kev Brady has given little Archie Thornhill an incredible early Christmas present – £18,000 towards a life-changing operation.

Kev raised the total – all of which he has donated to the families campaign, Archie’s Chance To Dance – by swimming the entire 220-mile length of the River Severn in October 2015.

Money raised has paid for an operation in the United States for the Quedgeley toddler, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, which has freed him from pain and enabled him to move independently.

Although the family are still fundraising for aftercare and physiotherapy, the sum donated by Kev takes their total raised so far to over £85,000, meaning Archie was able to have his operation in June of this year.

Here’s what Charlotte said when she found out that Kev was fundraising for Archie:

“It’s ridiculous what Kev’s done.

When he was raising the money we weren’t aware that it was going to Archie, and he came round last week and told us that’s where he wanted it to go, and it’s just mind blowing, really – it’s unbelievable.

It just means the world to me, coming up to Christmas especially.

I’ve been a bit stressed out with making sure we can raise as much as we can before the end of the year and Kev’s literally blown that out of the water.”

Charlotte added: “It’s hard to find the words to thank him enough.”

He first met Archie earlier last year and said: “It’s going to be amazing seeing Archie after the operation.

He gets around great now on his gold walker at the moment, and he’s fast on that – so as soon he’s able to walk pain-free, we’ll see how fast he can actually go.

I’m just so happy the swims been able to do such a good thing for them and I’m really looking forward to seeing his progress over the coming years.”

Kev, who canoed the length of the Mississippi river last year, added: “Often when you’re fundraising it can feel like money’s being thrown into an empty pot, so it’s so nice after a month of swimming and hard work to see exactly where it’s going to go.

“I know exactly what it’s going to do – and also know the people that it’s going to go to. I know how lovely Archie and Charlotte and the family are, and it’s a great feeling to know where it goes.”

Charlotte Thornhill, an accountant assistant 29, lives in Gloucester with her partner Luke, daughter Jasmine and son, Archie. Their three year old son Archie has cerebral palsy, he cannot walk well and is often in pain. His dream is to dance unaided.

Archie received an SDR operation in the United States at St Louis Children’s Hospital and after-care treatment in the UK, totalling £85,000 in June of this year. He would then be able to dance and move in the future, independently.

In order to raise the necessary funds, Charlotte laced up her dancing shoes in what was the challenge of a lifetime for a worrying Mum.

In a non-stop 36 hour (2 days and 1 night) heroic feat, Charlotte danced in her hometown of Gloucester until she hit her fundraising goal to change her son’s life. The challenge pushed the self-admittedly ‘unfit’ Mum to and beyond her limits, as she danced so that her son might.

The date of this challenge was Saturday 28th May and was held at Gloucester Docks, outside COAL Grill & Bar. Charlotte began dancing at 9am and did not stop until 9pm Sunday evening.

Here’s what Charlotte said before she completed this mammoth challenge,

“When I had Archie in 2011 it was very traumatic for me as I lost a lot of blood. I had to have a transfusion and I wasn’t able to feed him for the first 24 hours and feared for my life and his wellbeing. When I finally did he was absolutely perfect in every way.

Put simply, I was scared. I’m an everyday woman and the sheer scale of the dance-a-thon was absolutely petrifying – but, every time I felt the weight of expectation, I remember that the thought of not achieving our fundraising target for Archie was a million times more frightening.

For everybody that’s supported us so far, and everybody that supports this challenge and Archie for the future, we cannot thank you enough.”

Even though we’ve hit target, we are still fundraising for Archie’s aftercare and physiotherapy, so if you’d still like to donate, please do.

Wayne Russell, 34, was born and raised in Gloucester. He moved to London in his late teens, and has lived and worked there since.

His sister, Podsmead community hero Carmel Webb, died at the age of 35 on New Year’s Eve 2013, after a 10 year long battle with a rare heart condition. Regardless of her terminal illness, Carmel dedicated her life to charity, leaving behind her a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.

Inspired and motivated by his sister’s commitment to doing good for the people around her, Wayne decided to run the entire coastline of Britain, all to raise money for Superhero Foundation, so we can help more families.

Wayne started in Greenwich, London on the 6th September 2015 and ran the 5000 miles. Equivalent to 200 marathons, in a very impressive 11 months.

Oh – and he did this all alone whilst recovering from a broken ankle held together by more screws than you’ll find in your local B&Q!

Armed with only a tent, £1000 of his own money to last him and a few bits of equipment like a tracker, Wayne camped in the open, used public restrooms and experienced the kindness of others including a number of fire station squads on his journey.

Wayne’s journey reached more than a million people through social media and media, if you’d like to read more, visit the BBC news, or ITV news websites.

A true Superhero who raised more than £30,000 – and we can’t thank him enough!

On July 25th, Beth Fletcher from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, attempted to cycle 200 miles in 24 hours in a bid to raise £17,500 to pay for her autistic son to receive life changing treatment. Unfortunately after 79 miles and 11 hours of cycling non-stop, Beth stopped and collapsed suffering from chest pains – and was taken away in an ambulance.

Luckily Beth is ok and the fundraising continues. The money that was raised went towards her son to the Autism Treatment Centre of America for a week long program. Beth’s four year old son Charlie suffers from autism and currently has limited communications skills.

Beth Fletcher is a photographer living in Staffordshire with her husband Nick and son, Charlie. When Charlie was 18 months old, Nick and Beth became concerned about his lack of speech and inability to communicate. In the 2 and a half years since, Charlie has been diagnosed with autism and struggles to socialise and interact with other children.

The pioneering treatment in America ‘The Son Rise Program’ was developed by two parents who had a severely autistic son. They were told to put him in an institution but instead chose to work with him themselves. Their son, Raun Kaufmann, is now a grown man and CEO of the Autism Treatment Centre of America where the Son Rise Program is taught to thousands of other parents.

Beth said the following,

“I’m really worried that people will think that I didn’t complete my cycling challenge for Charlie. He was born in 2010 and was developing well, but at 18 months he hadn’t started to speak and was not interacting with others. After months of speaking to doctors and trying to get help, we were told that Charlie had autism.

It has been so depressing at times as we have been fighting to get some help but kept getting nowhere. My husband would come home to find me crying on the floor because I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

She continued,

“All I know is that I pushed my own limits during the challenge and went as far as I could go. The treatment that Charlie received and what I learn’t, about how to help my son was priceless.”

Beth’s challenge touched over 150,000 people, mostly through social media. If you’d like to read more, visit Burton Mail.

Beth and Charlie’s fundraising journey will continue for many years ahead, even if they go over target, donations are very much welcomed and appreciated.

Single mother Emma from Evesham, Worcestershire, walked day and night in a non-stop feat to fund life-changing treatment for her eight year old daughter, giving her the opportunity to walk unaided.

Emma Haynes left her job as a legal secretary to care for daughter Olivia and her three other children. She walked two marathons in 24 hours in an attempt to raise the money for her daughter’s post-op treatment without which, Olivia is unlikely to walk.

Olivia has relied on a wheelchair and walking frame to get around since birth, having been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The muscles in Olivia’s legs are very tight, making any weight she puts on her legs painful and tiring.

The life-changing operation from the NHS was hugely successful, but Olivia will need months of physiotherapy after leaving the hospital as she learns how to walk by herself. The vital postoperative treatment will cost £25,000+ – without it, Olivia is likely to be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

On Saturday 11th 2015 July, Emma pushed herself beyond anything she’s ever done before by walking two back-to-back marathons for 24 hours, in the hope that Olivia might one day be able to.

The challenge took place in the family’s hometown and Emma walked the same two mile loop through the town centre more than twenty five times, cheered on by her family and the local community that have already been so supportive to her and Olivia.

Emma had the following to say, “If I had to take a million steps so that Olivia can take just one then that’s what I will do.

I was so motivated and the challenge really brought us together as a family. Olivia’s twin sister Grace finds it so difficult that she can walk and Olivia can’t so really I’ve done this for all my children.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically – I don’t remember the last time I walked one mile let alone fifty two – but as any parent will agree, I will do anything within my power to improve my kids’ lives, and I hope this strikes enough of a chord with the public that we’re able to continue our fundraising for Olivia.

Emma’s challenge reached over 1.5 million people across the UK, including the Birmingham Mail, Worcester News, Evesham Journal, ITV News and many more.

Although we’ve reached our target and Olivia has received the life changing operation, which was hugely successful, we’re still fundraising for Olivia’s aftercare treatment and physiotherapy – so please keep donating.

On Monday 12th January 2015, 30 year old adventurer Anna McNuff, from Kingston, Surrey left Bluff on the South Island of New Zealand to run the entire length of the country, finishing at Cape Reinga in the North Island after 6 months of solid running.

Unsupported, alone and with a bag weighing a quarter of her bodyweight on her back – Anna negotiated some of New Zealand’s toughest backcountry – sleeping wild, crossing swollen rivers and scaling mountain passes on the Te Araroa trail. Running up to 32 miles a day, she took time out to visit schools along the way – sharing her story with more than 4,000 kiwi kids. The full 1,911 mile (72 marathon) journey took Anna 6 months to complete – raising nearly £5,000 for charity.

Motivated by her own childhood, Anna, helped fund 10 kids in the UK to attend a life changing outdoor Outward Bound course, which gave them confidence and skills to make a success of their own lives.

Anna says the journey was ‘the hardest thing she has ever done’ – quite a statement from the former Great British rower, who’s also completed a number of other superhuman feats and once saved two people’s lives in a car wreck caused by freak weather conditions.

The daughter of two Olympic rowers (her father Ian won a bronze medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics), Anna looked set to follow in her parents’ footsteps, having won a gold medal in the 2007 World University Games, followed by a bronze medal for Great Britain in the 2008 European Rowing Championships. After a series of injuries, Anna had to let go of her dream to represent her country at the Olympics.

From swimming 40km in open water to running 60 miles in a day, Anna competed in a range of challenges in the years following her early retirement from rowing, even finding time to compete in an Ironman and the Swim-Run World Championships.

For seven months throughout 2013, Anna cycled up to 130 miles a day – solo and unassisted – through each of the 50 states of the USA. When cycling through Colorado, Anna pulled two people out of a car wreck after their car had been washed off the road. Despite her heroism, Anna said she ‘thought they were dead’, admitting she cried on the bike for the rest of the day.

Adventurer Anna McNuff had the following to say, “I wanted to use this run to show people, the younger generation especially, that big ideas are never stupid ones. And that it’s okay to be nervous, even petrified about challenges that lie ahead. What is important is that you start, that you get out there and give it a bloody good crack. The mind is an incredible machine – it’ll let you push way beyond the point where your body wants to stop.”

Anna’s challenge reached more than half a million people through media and social media. Feel free to read more, and visit the Surrey Comet.

Or better yet, have a gander at her epic video.

James, 37, is a welder and lives just outside of Gloucester with his wife Kate, who’s a nurse, and two children. His three year old daughter Charlotte has cerebral palsy and has been wheelchair-bound for her entire life. There was an operation Charlotte could have, in America, that would enable her to walk. We’re very proud to announce that the £20,000 target to get Charlotte out to the States for this life-changing treatment, was a huge success.

In a non-stop heroic feat, Dad James for more than 55 hours (covering 90 miles), trekked up and down Robinswood Hill in Gloucester until he climbed the equivalent of the height of Mount Everest. Only James’ ascensions counted, meaning he needed to climb Robinswood Hill exactly 75 times in a row. The challenge pushed the everyday man, beyond his limits, in the hope that his daughter might walk.

James said “I couldn’t of done it without my wife, Kate, who has been a rock throughout this entire fundraising journey. Although I did doubt myself whether I could complete the challenge, like any parent would know, you’d do anything for your kids. I’m just happy that Charlotte’s life is pain-free.”

James’ challenge reached millions of people across the UK, if you like to see more about the challenge you can visit ITV News, BBC News, the Mirror or listen in on a heart-felt recording from James, struggling on the hill via BBC Radio.