Kathleen is taking on the Aspire Channel Swim in memory of her mum

I follow Aspire on social media and found out about the Aspire Channel Swim on Instagram. I saw the post at the perfect time – I had just been for my first swim following our local pool reopening after lockdown. I felt quite energised and motivated by my swim, so it was great timing.

I wanted to take on the challenge to raise funds to support people with Spinal Cord Injury because of my mum. In December 2017, she fell down the stairs at home and broke her C4 and C5 vertebrae. She was in intensive care for months and then moved to Stanmore’s rehabilitation unit. Sadly, she was paralysed from the chest down and her breathing was severely compromised. She was at Stanmore for several months and just before she was due to come home, she passed away from pneumonia. During her time in hospital and rehab, our family learnt so much about spinal cord injuries and the challenges faced by those who have been injured and their families.

Kathleen Fleming 1

Mum was at the Stanmore Spinal Injury Centre, so she was able to use the incredible facilities at the Aspire Leisure Centre, including the gym. We spent many hours chatting over smoothies at the café there as well. There was also an incredible man from Aspire who used to come to Stanmore, who taught my mum how to use her iPad and phone again, using special assistive technology. It was the most important thing to her as it meant she could have contact with us on a daily basis when we weren’t able to be with her at the hospital. My dad also had quite a lot of support with respect to advice on adapting their home etc.

Since mum passed away, I have been wanting to do something to raise money for a charity which supports those facing the same challenges as mum.

After having my daughter in 2018, I finally have the energy to take this challenge on and do something positive in memory of mum.

Kathleen Fleming 2

I used to swim competitively when I was a child and in my early teenage years. My mum was at every training session and gala and so swimming is the perfect way to remember her and her encouraging, enthusiastic spirit. I also love swimming and it has always been my moment of calm in any day. I always feel at peace when swimming – it’s almost like a moving meditation.

During lockdown spending time with family and friends and swimming were the two things I really missed. It was exciting when I was able to get back in the water again, although I wasn’t very swim fit. We live a few minutes away from Virgin Active in Wimbledon which has a great pool. It has an app through which you can check the club’s capacity. I was a little bit nervous the first time I went swimming as I wasn’t sure what to expect and sometimes in the past, the pool has been quite busy. There is also a one-way system in and out of the pool area, but there are never many people in the pool, so overcrowding hasn’t been an issue. It probably helps that people work from home so come throughout the day rather than peak times. I was very unfit at first, but I’ve found that after the first week of being back in the pool I’ve regained a lot of the fitness which I’d lost.

My fundraising has been going extremely well because my mum was well loved by so many people and I think those who knew her really want to donate to something relevant in her memory.

I’ve been asking people to sponsor me by word of mouth and social media. I would love to have a cake sale or something similar, but it is tricky with Covid. I’m thinking of other ways to raise money.

I also have a very close friend who suffered a spinal stroke and is now a wheelchair user. She was the first person who made me aware of organisations like Aspire. Also, having spent a lot of time with mum in hospital, I met some amazing people who were in similar situations to my mum.

Having lived through the experience with my mum, I want to do as much as possible to ensure that others in her situation have the support to overcome the challenges which a spinal cord injury brings.

Without the amazing staff at Stanmore and charities like Aspire, my mum would never have lived as long as she did, meaning she got to meet her granddaughter and celebrate my father’s 70th birthday with him. And we are forever grateful for this support.

Sponsor Katherine

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