Last month, Ashleigh Steward, her mum Sharon, Sharon’s friends Debbie and Linda and their daughters Emily and Jessica conquered Ben Nevis to raise over £3,500 for The National Hospital.
Let’s hear more about their story from Ashleigh…
In February 2012 my mum Sharon suffered a totally unexpected subarachnoid brain haemorrhage. She was rushed to hospital and then transferred to The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where she stayed for three weeks. They performed two emergency operations and looked after her until she was well enough to go home.
Whilst in the waiting room for a follow-up MRI scan, my mum read a hospital magazine which featured people raising money for The National Brain Appeal and decided that she wanted to raise some money to repay the hospital in some small way for saving her life.
This year, The National Brain Appeal aims to fund an upgrade of the operating theatres and a new state-of-the-art complex spinal theatre – and these will directly help those people who found themselves in a similar position to my mum.
My dad, Gary, and seven of his friends had already planned to undertake a 100 mile cycling trip on the Devon Coast to Coast route from Ilfracombe to Plymouth, so he turned this into a sponsored charity event to raise money as well.
The whole family were trying to decide the best way to fundraise and mum wanted it to be something that was a bit of a challenge that people would get behind. We looked at sponsored cycles and walks, and in the end decided on climbing Ben Nevis.
My mum’s best friends Debbie and Linda were there for her throughout her stay in hospital and helped out massively during her recovery period at home, supporting my dad. They were excited about getting involved and, as I was doing it as well, they got their eldest daughters, Emily and Jessica, involved also.
Finding somewhere similar to Ben Nevis in West London so we could train is pretty difficult so we went walking up as many hills and out in the countryside every Saturday morning for the four months preceding our trip. We also had a half term break in Cornwall where we walked some of the coastal path which at the time we thought was quite hilly!
When the event came round, it was pretty tough! The safety talk at the beginning was quite scary and certainly made us think we may have bitten off more than we can chew. We had a two-mile walk just to get to the bottom of Ben Nevis and the climb up was fairly steep in places. Climbing up large boulders that our guides referred to as ‘the path’ was quite exhausting! When we neared the summit, the weather closed in and there was a point where we may not have been allowed to complete the climb – however we pressed on and finally made it, even though the last part involved walking through snow!
The thing that kept us going was knowing that all the people who had sponsored us were willing us on to do well and the fact that the money they had donated would give future patients at The National a better chance of survival and quality of life after surgery.
It was very cold at the top but the sense of achievement was fantastic. My mum who is still suffering from tiredness and fatigue from her haemorrhage was brilliant the whole way up and to have a group photograph at the top was a great souvenir.
In the evening after the climb we all had a celebration meal where all the talk was of our climbing experience that day. It was only on the way home that it dawned on us what we’d actually achieved and we’re really proud of ourselves.
We now have the bug, (although it may wear off), and are looking for our next challenge! Mount Snowdon in Wales looks a good option as it has a café at the summit and a train that takes you there!