Hadrian’s Wall Trek – A Magnificent Effort!

After a magnificent effort by all concerned I am pleased to confirm a successful conclusion to our trek along Hadrian’s Wall.

My usual instinct when it comes to reporting the outcome of adventures is simply to describe what happened on a day-by-day basis.  After spending six days with such a remarkable group of people I thought it would be more appropriate to briefly describe each of the trek participants.

Some context: we walked in excess of ninety miles over the course of approximately six days, crossing the country via some seriously tough terrain.  Prior to the trek there was a reasonable amount of interest but the prospect of the magnitude of the challenge and its linear nature served to put off all but the most determined amputees.

Andy – below-knee amputee
This was not the first adventure that Andy and I have shared and hopefully it won’t be the last. Currently living in Holland, Andy’s ability to train on hills for the trek were somewhat limited!  Despite clearly being pretty tired at times, his cheerful determination and resolute ‘tip-top’ response to enquiries regarding his well-being set the tone for the trip.  Occasional pauses for ‘stump management’ characterise Andy dealing with his amputation and I’m sure that the rest of the team now fully understand why I was so pleased that Andy was able to participate.  My wife and I think Andy is one of the most mentally and physically tough individuals we have ever met and we were never in doubt that he would make it to the end.  As usual, he didn’t disappoint.

Helen – through-ankle amputee
Never having trekked before, quintessential Essex girl Helen used her boundless enthusiasm to overcome both her lack of hill experience and a significant aversion to steep paths in exposed settings (of which there were plenty in the middle part of the wall!).  In my opinion, bravery is being scared of something but doing it anyway.  Helen’s determination showed that under that fun exterior beats a brave heart, which she put to excellent use whizzing along the length of the wall.  Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness stood her in good stead, allowing her to complete our adventure despite the limits of the simple prosthetic imposed by her amputation and the significant pain from her real toes getting progressively more injured as the days went on.  Helen said that she really enjoyed the hills so I’m hoping to persuade her to join us on future adventures.

Ian – prosthetist
Unfortunately Ian was unable to move a pre-existing commitment that required his presence for the latter half of the trek.  Despite only being available for the first three days, Ian travelled up to Hadrian’s Wall country to ensure his expertise got the amputees off to a good start.  After thankfully being required to perform only a small amount of minor tweaking, it was with great sadness that the group said goodbye to Ian.  Not only was he a good companion to walk with, he also got us chips one evening when we thought all sources of food were closed.

Kat – physio
Unknown to any of us prior to the trek, Kat soon became a welcome and vital part of the group.  Not only handy with a map and compass, Kat was also willing to practice her medical skills on the numerous sore bits that were accumulated over the days of walking.  ‘Kat’s Clinic’ was opened at 0715 on the last few of days of walking and I am sure that this level of care had a significant impact on the welfare and morale of the group.  A willingness to try local ales in the evening also proved popular and we forced ourselves to emulate this interest!  Hailing originally from the vicinity of Newcastle, Kat was also able to impart a wealth of local geographical and pronunciation knowledge during the last day of the trek that surely facilitated our speedy progression through the city.

Mick – above-knee amputee
Prior to the trek, Mick and I had corresponded regarding various aspects of one-legged walking and I was eagerly anticipating meeting a fellow above-knee amputee who enjoys the hills as much as myself.   Over the course of the trek my respect for Mick grew exponentially.  Using a relatively basic mechanical knee and a conventional socket, he redefined what I thought was possible for an above-knee amputee and resolutely refused to concede that he was doing anything special (stubborn git!).  On the last day in particular, he pushed through what even he thought might be impossible, despite five days of accumulated wear on his body, in order to ensure the group’s finish deadline was met.  It was a humble privilege for me to walk with someone who has modestly overcome the limits of their amputation in such a spectacular fashion.

Steve – below-knee amputee
This was Steve’s first foray into the world of trekking and he gave it his all.  Unfortunately he fell victim to ill-timed issues with his health that prevented his full participation.  Despite not being able to walk the wall in a continuous fashion he remained loyal to the group and joined us whenever geography allowed.  In the evenings Steve selflessly provided access to amenities that wouldn’t have been possible without his car and he stuck with us to the end.  I hope that Steve will join us for further adventures and, under more fortuitous circumstances, I’m sure his determination will pay dividends.

Me – above-knee amputee
There’s enough about me on this site already so I’ll keep this short.  The terrain rendered the trek more challenging than I anticipated but my ITAP and rheo proved once more to be up to the task.  I enjoyed every moment walking with this group and hope to repeat the experience in the not too distant future.

Our achievement of following the entire Hadrian’s Wall path across the country in a very creditable six days makes me feel very proud of us as a group.  I don’t believe that many able-bodied observers or ‘ordinary’ amputees believed that such an achievement would be possible.  Our group’s amputations spanned a range of extent, each with their own challenges, and our prosthetics utilised different fixation methods. This served to emphasise that a determined and prepared amputee can achieve amazing feats regardless of their disability and the technology they utilise.  The phrase ‘redefining the possible’ can truly be said to apply to our group.  I hope that in years to come, those amputees that doubt they will ever overcome their own particular challenges will be able to look at our triumph over Hadrian’s Wall (and possible subsequent adventures!) and know it is not a folly to aspire to achieve great things.  I’d like to once again thank all the amputees for making our adventure extraordinary and for Kat and Ian for making the extraordinary a possibility.

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