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A magical experience

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The Sheffield Jump Squad, from back row left: Mark Mather, Tracey Blanshard, Claire Eley. From front row left: Sarah Medway, Karen WalkerKaren Walker took part in a skydive for the MS Trust in December last year along with a group of her friends who all have MS. Here she tells us how they went from meeting on an MS course in Sheffield to climbing 13,000ft together in a light aircraft!

The five of us first met on an MS newly diagnosed course, set up by The Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield in April 2009. Meeting each other has really been invaluable. Although we are five individuals, each dealing with our own different issues with MS, it’s great to have this little network for sharing experiences and supporting each other.

We got involved with the MS Trust when we saw they were developing a new resource for people who’ve just been diagnosed with MS (see page 7). We all took part in one of the focus groups to share our experiences.

The bottom fell out of my world

I felt it was important to get involved in the project because I know what it was like when I was first diagnosed with MS. The bottom fell out of my world and I didn’t have a clue what the future had in store for me, or where I should turn. I felt so alone and lost! When I took part in the hospital’s newly diagnosed course I had doors opened to a wealth of information, support and opportunities to meet other people like myself. I know how important that all was for me in the start of my new life with MS, so I wanted to share my experience and maybe help others in the future.

I wanted to fundraise for the MS Trust for selfish reasons I suppose. The free information they sent was of real value to me. I feel it’s important they can continue to produce this information for everyone affected by MS, so I wanted to give a little back.

I think it was Mark who suggested doing the Jump in June after he saw it mentioned in Open Door. Some of us are no longer physically able to run a marathon or a fun run, so we thought a parachute jump would be challenging enough. But it took us around two years to actually agree a date to jump!

A new goal

Before we did the jump our emotions ranged from extreme nerves to excitement. I don’t think it was something any of us had ever considered doing before, apart from Sarah who had already jumped twice. I guess doing the parachute jump is something positive that’s come out of having MS. I was a keen runner before my diagnosis and having that taken away from me was devastating, so having a new goal helped give me some focus.

Together we raised over £2,700 and we all had different ways of raising the money. I personally kept dropping subtle hints to family and friends about the Virgin Money Giving website I’d set up. I also wrote an article and posted it on the intranet at work.

My dad held a fundraising night with his friends at his local, and my mum asked people not to give her gifts for her seventieth birthday but to donate to my fundraising efforts instead.

My twin sister got people to sponsor her for a 10K run and my partner Jon’s mum asked friends and neighbours for donations.

Tracey didn’t want to do the jump herself, but she was amazing at organising sponsorship and promotion. She managed to get articles published about us in local papers and magazines and even got us an interview on Radio Sheffield.

Absolutely amazing

The jump itself was absolutely amazing – indescribable! Sitting on the edge of the plane waiting to jump was superb. Looking down at how far we were going to fall was fantastic and terrifying at the same time. The feeling of falling, and falling, and falling, and falling was literally breathtaking (not to mention loud) as I ‘rushed’ through the air at around 200 mph with my stomach in my mouth. The contrasting quiet that followed as soon as the parachute was deployed and I ‘floated’ to the ground was simply magical!

We all met up after the jump and discussed whether we would set ourselves another goal in the future. We all agreed that we’d love to do something else to raise more money, but we’ve yet to decide what that is going to be. It might have to be something less physically challenging, but we will be doing something. Watch this space!

Experience the magic for yourself at an airfield near you by taking part in the MS Trust’s Jump in June month! Your skydive will be free if you raise £395 in sponsorship. Call 01462 476707 or visit mstrust.org.uk/jump to book.

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