A Glasgow man is taking on the Kiltwalk for his twin brother, who was diagnosed with the terminal illness, Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
Gordon (62), who now lives in England with his wife Faith (64), is coming back to Scotland for the Dundee Kiltwalk on Sunday, August 19. Gordon’s brother, Brian, who lives in Dundee, was diagnosed with MND in August 2016.
The twins were raised in Glasgow but after finishing education Brian moved to Dundee to work for the National Cash Registers (NCR) and Gordon moved to England.
Gordon lives in Yorkshire and is the Commanding Officer of the West Riding 28th (WR28) Battalion Haworth Home Guard.
Brian and his wife Margaret (60) have three children; Caroline (34), who is a doctor in Aberdeen and married to Mick (32); David (32), who works for Marine Scotland; and Malcolm (28), who is training to become a priest in Rome.
They have have grandchildren; Caitlin (5) and Oisin (2). Brian retired from NCR at the end of October 2015 and started to make the most of his free time doing what he loved; hillwalking and swimming with Margaret.
Gordon said: “In May 2016 Brian noticed that he was becoming breathless and had to stop frequently as he tired easily. He could manage 20 lengths at each swimming session but this became harder and harder to manage, and eventually he could not even complete one length without struggling.
“As the days progressed Brian found that the simple task of walking was awkward due to his posture changing and he started to stoop as a way of coping with the problem, not knowing the cause. He also lost 13kg (2 stones) in weight over this time.
“As a result, Brian visited his GP and was then referred to Ninewells Hospital to see a consultant neurologist.
“The neurologist checked limb strength and noticed that there was muscle wastage. He was of the opinion that Brian may have MND and immediately admitted him the same day for further tests.
“During his five days in hospital Brian had MRI scans, EMG tests and various other tests on muscle function and capabilities. At the completion of these tests the consultant confirmed his diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease on the 16th of August 2016.”
Gordon continued:“The next months saw Brian’s sleeping getting worse, waking up a lot during the night, sweaty and breathless. The MND nurse referred Brian to the respiratory team and he was given a ventilator machine to use overnight. This helps Brian to breathe by forcing air into his lungs so as not to rely on his diaphragm.
“When I came up from Yorkshire in November 2016 to visit Brian I took him down to the banks of the Tay and he could walk about 200 yards with the aid of a walker support. The next time I visited a few months later he could not even manage this. This leaves Brian effectively being housebound where he can watch the birds in his garden from the lounge window as one of his few pleasures.
“As time went by Brian’s mobility got worse and he could barely manage to walk through the house but not get far outside.
“He was eventually given an electric wheelchair in May 2017, which has made life easier. He is waiting to get a ramp fitted to allow him wheelchair access to the outside again if the weather is warm and fine.
“His bathroom has been converted to have a walk in shower with a stool to sit on. His breathing continued to deteriorate and he is now using a ventilator all the time both night and day.
“In February 2018 Brian had a fall while struggling to walk back from the bathroom due to exhaustion, so he cannot walk anymore and has to use the wheelchair all the time. Brian has now lost the ability to shower himself and has carers in to help.
“This is putting a strain on his loving wife, Margaret, who copes admirably.
“Without the help of friends and carers Margaret would not be able to go out shopping or for a walk along the front as respite. His children help as much as they can. David does a lot of cooking and Caroline comes down to visit with the grandchildren who dote on their grandfather. They are a great pleasure.
“Although Brian has a box of medicines he can take to alleviate pain and discomfort he is sticking to the Scottish remedy at 9 o’clock every night. I am sure this helps.”
Now Gordon would like to give back to the charity that has helped his brother during his journey of MND.
He said: “This year the WR28 Battalion Haworth Home Guard are making MND Scotland its charity to collect for, and donate to. We are holding a sponsored walk from Haworth to Top Withens to raise funds for MND Scotland.
“As well as this, two members and myself, along with one of my neighbours, are going to take part in the Kiltwalk in Dundee and hopefully do so in Home Guard uniform. We are aiming to do the ‘Mighty Stride’ of 26 miles to raise as much as we can for this excellent charity that has done so much for my brother.
“On a personal level I feel MND Scotland has done a lot for my brother. They arranged a blue disability badge to allow car parking, provided the benefit of a MND Scotland staff member visiting Brian at home to help with filling in forms and they hold regular support meetings in a local hotel.
MND Scotland also arranged for a complementary therapist to visit him at home for massages, and gave Brian a grant to enable him to purchase a riser recliner chair which he finds makes sitting more comfortable.
“MND Scotland is the main and efficient point of contact if difficulties exist for whatever reason. They make sure that Brian and his family are not alone in coping with this disease.”
Unfortunately, Brian is unable to leave his house due to the progression of the illness, so won’t be able to see his brother finish the 26-mile challenge.
However, he did say, “I am very proud of what Gordon is doing and that his friends are going to do the mighty stride with him, and that his WR28 Haworth Home Guard are joining in by doing a walk from Haworth to Top Withens, as they cannot join him in Scotland.
“I hope they will have a drink of my Scottish medicine on me. I am also proud of Gordon and Faith’s daughter Kay (38) for raising funds at Calderdale College, where she is a teacher, by baking a cake.”
Iain McWhirter, MND Scotland’s head of fundraising, said: “I’d like to thank Gordon and the rest of the WR28 team for choosing to support MND Scotland.
“I am glad to hear that MND Scotland has been able to help Brian and his family during this time, and supporters like Gordon enable us to continue doing this for families across the country. Team MND Scotland are wishing Gordon the best of luck and will be cheering him on.”