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Speyside Way next in man's MND mission

By Lorna Thompson

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A north-east man is taking on six challenges for MND Scotland this year in memory of his Elgin-born dad.

Callum MacDonald, 34, from Kingswells, a contracts advisor for an oil company, lost his dad, John, to motor neurone disease (MND) in August 2013.

John, from Elgin, was an operations director for a logistics company and previously a diver and submariner in the Royal Navy. He died when he was just 57 after living with the condition for only one year.

MND is a rapidly progressive terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This may cause sufferers to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided.

Callum, who is married to Jennifer and is father to three-year-old Lily-Jane, is now fighting back against MND to raise money towards a cure. He has rallied several close friends to take on #JonnyMac2019 – a series of six physical tests which include climbing a Corbett, cycling the Formartine and Buchan Way, Aberdeen Kiltwalk, climbing a Munro, walking the Speyside Way and completing the Great Glencoe Challenge to Ben Nevis.

Callum MacDonald.
Callum MacDonald.

John first started to notice something was wrong in the summer of 2011. He was diagnosed with MND in September 2012.

Callum said: "He intermittently fell over as his foot would just give out on occasion. This went on for a couple of months before his foot became sort of a club foot and his walking slowed down gradually.

"We coped as well as we could. When my parents told me they struggled to tell me it was incurable and terminal. Naturally, this was horrible to take in and really quite difficult to understand. None of us had heard of MND before this."

John’s symptoms worsened over the year and he was forced to stop working – a huge blow to the workaholic.

"Within a few months he lost the use of his legs but still had limited use of his hands and head. He was then completely immobilised with the exception of his head. After this, he very rapidly deteriorated. Throughout this time his voice became little more than a whisper."

Callum has already completed two of the fundraising challenges and will walk the Speyside Way from May 21-24.

He said: "I’ve thought out the challenges by locale quite deliberately. The cycle that we did in March along the Formartine and Buchan Way was where I learned to ride my bike with Dad and we used to walk our dog along that line when I was a kid. The Speyside Way passes through where Mum and Dad are from (Moray) and it finishes up in Aviemore, which is where my Nana (Dad’s mum) used to live – we have very fond memories of visiting there. The Kiltwalk also passes through Lower Deeside, which is where my parents lived until my mum moved back to Moray earlier this year.

"I'm quite active already. However, long-distance anything is not within my wheelhouse, so I think the Speyside Way will be really difficult, having to get up after the first day and do it all over again.

Callum has set himself the target of raising £2,500. The total is currently sitting at £1,690.

He added: "If I'm honest, I know that £2,500 is a drop in the ocean in the reality of curing this disease. However, if the money can provide respite, comfort and care for anyone afflicted in any way, we’re doing well."

Iain McWhirter, MND Scotland’s head of fundraising, said: "Callum isn’t just taking on one challenge in memory of his dad, he’s taking on six, which is just incredible. Without fundraisers like Callum we wouldn’t be able to support families across Scotland who are affected by MND, or fund ground-breaking research towards a cure."

To donate visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cal-macdonald1.

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