Wheelchair-bound man has a mountain to climb

Gordon Divall will attempt to scale Mount Snowdon, with help from his team. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks170051-2
Gordon Divall will attempt to scale Mount Snowdon, with help from his team. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks170051-2

Wheelchair-bound Gordon Divall is planning to climb Mount Snowdon – with the help of a charity team.

There will be about 150 people racing up the highest mountain in Wales from June 30 to July 2, in an attempt to raise £50,000 for The Back-Up Trust.

The Snowdon Push 2017 is a unique annual challenge for ten teams, each having one wheelchair-user who is supported to the summit by other members.

They push and pull their way up to summit the mountain before making their way back down again to raise money for the charity, which supports people like 46-year-old Gordon with a spinal cord injury.

Gordon, of Southlands Way, Shoreham, said: “I am climbing Mount Snowdon for The Back-Up Trust because I have a spinal injury.

“I went into hospital in Haywards Heath on July 31, 2014, after being told I had carpal tunnel syndrome. I had the op and was then called back into hospital and told it’s not carpal tunnel, it’s the shoulder rubbing against the spine causing deterioration of the discs.

“They removed some debris and replaced it with a spring and silicone disc. I was told this would be a routine op with a three-day recovery period but this lasted nine months in total, and for three of them I was paralysed from the neck down.

“Then I had an itch and was transferred to Stoke Mandeville’s spinal unit, who were great, and that’s where I first encountered The Back-Up Trust, a charity run by and for people with spinal cord injuries who helped me come to terms with being in a wheelchair by training me how to use my chair.

“I don’t know about the accepting bit, as I personally don’t think you do, as, the same for all, there’s hope I like to think.”

Gordon, who is also sight-impaired, began volunteering for the trust, along with other charities, such as East Sussex Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People (ESAB), through which he set up a group called Brighton VIPs and remains the chairman.

“These have all been major influences in my life, in terms of rebuilding my self confidence,” he said.

“The awareness of others is why I would like to give something back and I am asking for help for me to be able to help others in the future and, with back up, help us to reach the summit of Mount Snowdon.

“I have myself lost so much but in losing so much I have also gained too, as you need to lose to really appreciate what is actually there.”

Sadly, while Gordon was in hospital, his guide dog had to be put to sleep.

“I was meant to stay in Stoke Mandeville for a two-year rehabilitation but the health authority would not pay for my stay,” he said.

“I was told I could either go back to my flat, which was first floor, or go into a hostel in Brighton. I went back to my flat, where I was a prisoner in my own home with a key to the door but couldn’t handle the stairs as they were very narrow for a wheelchair.

“Then I had the opportunity to move to Shoreham but it took a while before I could actually move due to paperwork that I feel could have been done once I had moved in.”

ESAB has continued to support Gordon and last year helped him to raise enough money to buy a power wheelchair last year.

He has paid to enter the Snowdon Push and is now looking for sponsorship to reach his fundraising target of £2,000. Visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Gordon-Divall1 to make a donation.

The trust said there are approximately 40,000 people living with a spinal cord Injury (SCI), with a new diagnosis every eight hours.

“SCI can have a devastating impact on those affected and their families, both physically and mentally. As a leading UK spinal injuries charity, Back up are focused on offering support, encouraging independence and inspiring people to lead the lives they want to lead.”

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