David’s Big Charity Walk
No stopping positive Harlow man as he walks for charity again
IMAGINE that you’ve studied for six years. That you have sacrificed some of your social life to dedicate time to your dream of becoming a solicitor. To help support yourself, you do various part-time jobs along the way. You dedicate yourself to the demanding routine of study, exams, lectures and research. Finally, you make it to your goal. You qualify.
Not long after, a catastrophic event changes all your plans. You have no say in the matter, no choice. Your plans, your health, your life changes beyond recognition, in a moment.
This happened to David Chennells more than eleven years ago. In a split second, which he cannot even remember, a massive bleed to his brain, altered David’s life. On his way to work, where he was a newly-qualified solicitor, David collapsed in the road. He was twenty-six years old, fit and healthy. The cause, his family later discovered, was an AVM.
AVM stands for Arteriovenous Malformation. An AVM is a tangle of abnormal and poorly-formed blood vessels (arteries and veins). They have a higher rate of bleeding than normal vessels. AVMs can occur anywhere in the body. Brain AVMs are of special concern because of the damage they cause when they bleed. They are very rare and occur in less than 1% of the general population. Strokes, which can result in similar outcomes, are more common.
The following months were difficult for David and for his family and friends. Extensive brain surgery. Long stays in different hospitals around the county. And then, months of rehabilitation, and finally, a new life, learning to speak, walk, and become independent again.
It was a long and gradual journey, with much frustration, some setbacks, and many obstacles on the way. But David is a determined and positive person – he was not going to give in, settle for second best, or take the easy route. From the early days, when he lost his language and mobility, to the busy and committed life he leads today, David has made incredible progress. Not only does he look after himself, doing his own cooking, housework, and living independently, David also gives to his local community. This takes the form of volunteering at the Harlow branch of CAB, and at the Partridge Road adult learning centre.
When not giving his time to such great causes, David heads to the gym, where he pushes himself to achieve a high level of fitness. Also, to make sure he can maintain his mobility, David goes on regular walks.
His walking has become important. There had been a time, in the months following his surgery, that David’s family were unsure that he would ever walk again. Gradually gaining strength and, with the help of intensive physiotherapy, and a special device to stimulate his right leg, David took his first steps. And there’s been no holding him back since.
Last year, on the 10th anniversary of his AVM, David completed a mile-long walk through Harlow town centre. Starting and finishing at the Water Gardens, the event was a joyful occasion for friends and family, who walked with David. It was wonderful to see him achieve his target, with a great deal of cheering, applause, as well as a few tears at the end. Robert Halfon, MP, also attended the event, congratulating David on completion of his great achievement.
It was David’s wish to carry out the walk as a personal challenge, which he more than met. But he also wanted to raise money for the Brain and Spine Foundation, a charity providing support and information to people affected in similar ways to David. Setting up a donation page online, and finding sponsorship in person, David raised a fantastic £4,000 for the Brain and Spine Foundation. Members from the charity were there on the day to see David complete his big challenge. For someone who had run several marathons before the AVM, walking that mile through Harlow was a huge achievement. Friends, family and supporters are very proud of David’s achievements, and the walk is a symbol of his determination and enthusiasm.
This year, David will do the walk again. Saturday 11 August is the big day this year. Make a note of the date and come along to wave, cheer, support, walk, donate, and encourage. Your time, and your support will mean a great deal to David, who has overcome so much to be where he is now.
The plan is to make the walk an annual event. Look out for David once a year and join in with him to celebrate his recovery and his positive approach to life. What happened to him could happen to any of us at any time, so let’s do our bit to support a great event, a great charity and a great man. Come along and walk a mile in David’s shoes. If you can’t make it on the day, please visit David’s fundraising page, to show your support: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DavidChennells
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