BRAVE Portadown mum Lisa Armstrong will be taking to the skies for a hair-raising 13,000ft skydive to raise funds for vital research into Muscular Dystrophy, a condition which her 11-year-old son Tom suffers from.
Tom was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a life-shortening condition which causes muscles to waste away over time, in 2003 when he was two-years-old.
The condition, for which there is currently no cure, shortens life expectancy and creates mobility difficulties for the sufferer as muscles weaken and waste over time.
The Portadown Times first interviewed Lisa, who lives in Swallowfields just off the Mahon Road, in 2009 when Tom’s great-uncle, David Gibson, known as Reggie, was about to embark on a 320-mile walk around Northern Ireland for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign. Reggie, who was 70 at the time, raised £7,000 for the challenge and undeterred, took on another feat of walking around Lough Neagh which raised an impressive £6,000 a year later.
Now following in her uncle’s footsteps, Lisa is taking the plunge and joining 60 fellow daredevils from across the UK who will be taking part in the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Leap Year sky-dive challenge on February 25.
Lisa says while she feels a “wee bit apprehensive” about the sky-dive, she is determined to see it through, in the hope that the funds she raises will one day lead to a breakthrough in treating the disease.
“The research is making strides but like a lot of research into diseases of these kinds, it can take a long time to reach the point where a drug is available. My hope is that by the time Tom’s in his teens, there will be a drug,” she said.
Tom is in his last term at Millington Primary School where his twin brother also attends. Come September the pair will then start at Clounagh Junior High.
“Tom has his mobility chair which helps him get around. He can no longer get up and down stairs but he’s not doing too bad,” she said Lisa.
She jokes that so far her son has shown little interest in her skydive, but adds that he will be there, along with family and friends, to cheer her on from the visitors’ gallery at the skydive club in Coleraine.
“I want to do absolutely everything I can for my son and other children and adults living with these conditions. I think Muscular Dystrophy is one of conditions that isn’t well known about unless you’re involved in it.
“Around 11,000 boys were diagnosed per year in Great Britain with the condition. And when you look at the UK population as a whole, it perhaps isn’t a significant number, but one of the other reasons I am doing this is to help raise the charity’s profile.”
Lisa’s family and friends are lending their support to her fundraising efforts. People can also make pledges at The Meat Cleaver butchery at the Shamrock Chalet Complex where a sponsorship form is available behind the counter. Lisa also has a justgiving page online at www.justgiving.com/lisaarm.
“We have a real chance to find the first treatment for muscular dystrophy and I hope that people in Portadown will back me and all the other people taking part on February 25 and raise funds so that we can continue promising research,” Lisa adds.
So far five people in Northern Ireland, including Lisa, have signed up to the skydive, but the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign is appealing for more people to get involved. To find out more visit www.muscular-dystrophy.org/maketodaycount or to find out more about sky-diving, call the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Fundraising hotline on 0845 872 9058.