Self-professed ‘history nerd’ Tom Bell is embarking on a 17-mile run dressed as a Viking to raise awareness of rare genetic disorder.
Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia is a genetic disease which causes an array of symptoms, not least the gradual, yet inevitable loss of the use of your legs. It’s described as a cousin of Motor Neurone Disease.
“My father-in-law has HSP and I’ve witnessed his struggle with it over the years I’ve known him,” explains Tom from South Milford.” I’ve always admired his determination and quiet strength of character in the way he keeps cracking on the way he does. About two years ago we got the news that my wife, Becca may have the gene which causes the disease. It was a 50/50 chance as to whether she would have the gene. If she had it, then our little boy Bertie would have the same chances. At that time Becca was also pregnant with our little girl, Henrietta.”
Tom asked the HSP Support Group for advice.
“I wanted to know more about the disease, and start to work out how I can support Becca and the family if it turned out they had it.”
The charity not only offers support to HSP sufferers, but it also helps fund research into curing this horrid disorder. “They were very helpful, and I remember them saying ‘we’re here for her’ at the end of the call – that really stuck with me.”
Luckily tests showed that Becca, and therefore their children were all clear, and didn’t carry the gene.
“The feeling was incredible,” recalls Tom, “a mix of gratitude, elation and relief. We were on holiday on Arran at the time, and the following day we both swore that everything seemed more colourful than before. The charity assured me that they’d be there to support us, if it came to the worst. Now I’d like to do something to support them.”
And good to his word on Saturday September 11 Thomas will start a 17-mile run in full Viking battle gear, with chain mail, helmet, and weapons weighing over 15kg.
“It’s a historic route from Riccall to Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire.
“During the battle (of Stamford Bridge) a third of the Viking army was left at Riccall with their ships, and when the Saxons unexpectedly arrived in force, they were called to join the main army, and as I’m a history nerd, and have recently joined a re-enactment group called The Volsung Vikings and so I thought why not?”