Callum, a Contracts Advisor for an oil company, lost his dad, John, to Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in August 2013.
MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This may cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided.
John (from Elgin) was an Operations Director for a logistics company and previously a diver and submariner in the Royal Navy. He passed away when he was just 57 years old after living with the condition for only one year.
John first started to notice something was wrong in the summer of 2011. After several tests, due to having private medical care, doctors were able to establish what was wrong relatively quickly. 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. However, I was aware of Lou Gherig’s Disease / ALS without connecting them until later on.”
John’s symptoms aggressively progressed in the year from his diagnosis and he was forced to stop working - a huge blow to the workaholic.
“Despite leaving ASCo, many friends and colleagues took the time to visit him. This helped him live the last year of his life the best he could. Worse than having to resign from work was Dad losing his ability to drive his beloved car. However, he had a great time with his mobility scooter for as long as he could.
“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. Finally, he was essentially incommunicable for only a day before passing, and was only distressed for a short period of this. Although, his personality always shone through right to very near the end; he always had a joke and a smile for the carers that came into see him, their support and friendship meant the world to both him and our family.
“It was, obviously, very rough on us, particularly for my mum Barbara, who had to stop working to take care of my dad. I know the toughest part of it for me, and I think for my sister (Taryn) too, was seeing such a strong man, a real character of strength deteriorate so quickly, but dad inspired a strength in us and made it possible for us to find the good in every day, and enjoy the time we were to have together.
“He was so tough, both in physicality and in character; insisting on being up, dressed and in his wheelchair (out and about) until the day he was hospitalised, only 9 days before he passed away. In his youth Dad boxed and played rugby. He was a diver and submariner in the Royal Navy before joining the Offshore Survival Industry in the 1980’s, and he worked in setting up logistics bases all over the world, including Brazil and Trinidad.
“A very driven and determined man, he was more office based and properly submerged in his passion of cars in his later days. He could still assist in mooring and tying off ships on base if required too though!”
Callum, who is married to Jennifer (34) and dad to Lily-Jane (3), is now fighting back against MND to raise money towards a cure.
Callum, along with his good friend Mark, has rallied several close friends to take on #JonnyMac2019, a series of six physical tests; climbing a Corbett, cycling the Formartine & Buchan Way, Aberdeen Kiltwalk, climbing a Munro, walking the Speyside Way (unassisted) and completing the Great Glencoe Challenge to Ben Nevis.
“These challenges have a variety of distances, endurance and elevations. As the year progresses the challenges will be increasingly difficult and I’m confident each should have a "quitting point". I want there to be a moment during each challenge which I will remember in the future that I could have quit but didn't.
“I have purposefully chosen challenges that require a different type of endurance or fitness, so each month will involve a new level and type of training. It won’t just be a test for us on the day itself, it's the preparation and training that is a challenge as well.
“I’ve also thought out the challenges by locale quite deliberately. My dad was very into the ‘MacDonald’ name and history, and because of this I’ve really found a link to Glencoe in recent years. The cycle that we did in March along the Formartine & Buchan Way was where I learned to ride my bike with him 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.”
With two under his belt already, Callum is focusing on the next challenge, walking the Speyside Way from 21st – 24th May.
“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.
“Although Dad wasn’t into hillwalking he enjoyed being outdoors and seeing the world, so I know he would appreciate these challenges.”
While this is a huge physical undertaking for Callum, he’s also set himself the target of raising £2,500 for the charity MND Scotland.
“We are currently at £1,690 which is great. 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. I think, like everyone else, if we can just raise enough to contribute to finding a cure it’s all for the better.”
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.
“I’d like to say a massive thank you to Callum, and to everyone who’s donated to help his fundraising efforts. We’re all wishing him the best of luck with the rest of his challenges.”
If you would like to donate to Callum’s fundraising please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cal-macdonald1.
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