Beneficiary Stories

Emma Harrison

Emma has been involved with M2M since the beginning. Back in 2018, Emma reached out to Ed as she was looking for a physio that would be prepared to take her outside on walks and test her neurology in nature. Sure enough, Ed had the contacts. Emma said “Earlier this year [August 2020] I met Ed and Lois on their Walk The Spine challenge, although it was pouring with rain, it was one of the best days of my year. Being able to walk with Ed, facing similar challenges to me and to talk with him and others without judgement or needing to explain everything about my injury was hugely beneficial to me.”

The foundation has enjoyed watching Emma push her boundaries and gain confidence in the mountains after her turbulent time in Burma. Emma contracted Dengue Fever out there & was close to death but after surviving one of the worlds most deadliest diseases developed Transverse Myelitis. This has resulted in Emma having left side weakness, balance issues and limited movement in her hands. Due to Emma’s injury she is no longer able to go back to her designing job full time as she doesn’t have the strength in her hands. This has led to Emma potentially changing career and figuring out what she would like to do next. Emma says the development programme has helped her “The life coaching Lois is providing is helping guide me through the process of building a meaningful and sustainable future and career. She is helping me break down that daunting project, into monthly tasks, allowing me to explore new things, reflect, and see a way forward.”

Although Emma hasn’t managed to get on an abroad trip in 2021 due to Covid, she has managed to join M2M on the Walk The Coast event and a weekend in South Wales where they climbed Sugarloaf & canoed down the River Wye. Emma is really excited to be going on a trip next year “I think being able to walk in an incredible environment such as Iceland could really inspire me with what to do in the future, I feel like I need some space to decide what to do. My life has become so small just focusing on my physical recovery, but as that is now going well I need to address the other aspects.”

Lily Minton

In 2020 Lily was unaware that her brother had put her forward for a beneficiary place with M2M. Lily was going through a tough time psychologically, facing depression and anxiety on a daily basis & really struggling in any social situations. Lily wrote in a recent blog “I’d gotten into such a mental trap; built over days, months, years of anxiety, depressed thoughts and paranoia (exacerbated by some uncomfortable life experiences) that were looping back and forth, that I lost all desire to stay in this world.”

Lily’s brother Hamish felt like getting outside in nature and Ed’s story could be the catalyst to get Lily back to her true self again. As Lily was only 22 at the time and unaware that M2M wanted to support her, the Foundation invited her to the Walk The Coast event in Cornwall with a friend so that she could be eased in to the charity gently. Lily’s feedback on the event was “I found it challenging and overwhelming at times, but I knew I had to be there. Cornwall was the first taste of what M2M do and I was pinching myself that I was able to go. Being amongst magic views, lush countryside and the beautiful Cornish coast was a tonic for the soul. I was in awe of others on the trip testing their own perimeters, be it spinal cord injuries and/ or other mental health challenges. What stood out was the sense of community and positive energy that encapsulate the M2M team.”

Seeing Lily flourish on this trip, asking questions, being curious and brave the M2M team had an opening on the Viking Challenge and felt that Lily was ready to go on an abroad trip. On reflection of the trip Lily said “I cannot explain the vastness of this view… It looked a convincingly intergalactic, otherworldly, warped or distorted illusion.. I felt my true insignificance here and gained a lot more of the old cliché - ‘PERSPECTIVE’. It was hard not to sit there and compartmentalise any untruths that accumulated over the years. Lois asked, “How’s this for headspace Lil?” No words for this feeling; grateful for the sunglasses, my vision blurred, and I was streaming a few happy tears."

Lily is now back at University, has joined a cheerleading club and really enjoying being part of the M2M Development Programme.

Jacob Smith

Christmas in 2019 wasn’t an ordinary Christmas as Jake discovered he had a low flow spinal cavernoma which led to him going into surgery to have it removed on NYE. This has left Jake with a spinal cord injury with the damage extending from C3-C7. He also has Brown Sequards syndrome which means he has limited movement on the left side of his body and little to no movement in his left arm but can feel pain. On the right he has good movement but no pain sensation, this can lead to blisters and sores that need managing. Jake’s girlfriend Olivia put Jake forward for a beneficiary place without him knowing as she knew he would be too reserved and modest to put himself forward. It was a great surprise for him to learn he was going to be taking on the mighty Monte Rosa (4215m) and enter into the M2M Development Programme. Jake’s feedback from the trip was “Hands down the most amazing and eye opening experience I’ve had. Each day put me out my comfort zone and made me realise I’m a lot more capable than I thought I was.”

Jake thrives in the outdoors. Before the trip he took on a swimless Iron Man, cycling 112 miles around the Yorkshire Dales and walking the 3 Yorkshire Peaks equating to a marathon. He has now gone on to trial for the British Cycling Paralympic team. The M2M team can’t wait to see what Jake does next. Jake said “The trip has given me a lot of perspective of what I want to do in the future. M2M has been a big stepping stone in my recovery, and I can’t thank them enough for that. Watching Eds challenges have been an amazing inspiration and have helped me push myself and take on some of my own.”

Jozef Bieszczad

Jozef has always been a mountain man. From an early age he loved getting outdoors and so when he broke his back and pelvis skydiving it meant that all he had known was suddenly no longer accessible to him. Since his surgery Jozef had always dreamed of getting back out into the mountains and the one thing that kept his drive to recover were the stories of people that overcame the impossible and their disability didn’t stop them from pursuing happiness. It was Ed’s story that really hit home and it pushed Jozef to get out of his comfort zone and try to help others who found themselves in similar situations. Jozef has been keen to join the M2M team on as many events as possible, including Walk The Coast (2021) which he completed the whole 2 weeks with wild camping and the Vincent Pyramid out in Italy (4215m). Jozef’s said this about his recent trip to the Alps “I rediscovered the power of nature, surrounded by other kind souls united by the same mission. By reaching out to M2M and learning about their work helped me restore faith in humanity and find a new purpose in life. M2M has showed great support since I’ve met them, and they continue to keep surprising me with their kindness and willingness to make a difference.”

Leah Birkin

Leah broke and dislocated her t11 vertebrae playing rugby for Yorkshire in May 2018. She underwent spinal surgery to stabilise the break and fix two metal rods to support the fracture and allow for repair. Although Leah recovered physically it left her with a few mental scars and she struggled to get back to who she was pre-accident. Leah said “After my injury I felt a huge loss of identity and lost my way. Ed reached out to me early on after my injury and I have followed his journey ever since. He is my biggest inspiration and has shown me that life can be tough sometimes, it’s how we challenge the adversity that counts!”

In 2020 Leah was offered a beneficiary place with M2M and although she couldn’t attend the Viking Challenge this year due to Covid she completed a weekend in Wales with the M2M team and is set to embark on another challenge in 2022. Leah is really excited for next year – “Ed and the M2M team have inspired me to keep pushing forwards and have provided me with the opportunity to meet people with similar physical and mental battles as my own. I am looking forward to next year with M2M and the challenges ahead. Having goals and challenges to focus on with M2M has allowed me to regain a sense of identity, purpose and the opportunity to spend time outside with like-minded people.”

Ben Halms

Ben is a 33-year-old veteran, and he suffered a spinal cord injury in 2018 whilst parachuting for the British Army. Ben had served 13 years in the Parachute Regiment, until he found himself on a routine parachute jump.

Ben’s parachute failed to deploy properly and malfunctioned, which resulted in him falling 1000ft and landing 12 seconds later. His accident meant he suffered an L2 burst fracture and lost the sensation in his right leg.

The first few months were difficult but all the rehab and physiotherapy helped him to stay focused, but after a couple of years all that had stopped and he had lost momentum, motivation and felt he had no purpose.

Ben was put in contact with Ed Jackson through social media and Ed told Ben all about M2M. Ben loved the concept and after looking into it he submitted an application to become a beneficiary, saying he would be delighted to join any of the exhibitions.

“When I got that phone call to tell me that I’m going to Nepal, I couldn’t have been happier. M2M have helped me a lot with my mental battles and they still do to this day. The community they have provides such a strong support network, helping me and others. I want to complete this exhibition to show people no matter what injury or struggles you have, if you are willing and determined you will succeed. I hope I can help to motivate other people with injuries to get out and explore, set goals and find a purpose again.”

Ruari Watson

Ruari broke his neck in 2011 when he was only 23 from slipping as he dived into a swimming pool leaving him with damage to the spinal cord at C4/C5. He has Brown Sequard syndrome so the left side is stronger than the right but the stronger side has reduced sensation to temperature/pain. Initially the doctors told Ruari he may not walk again but within a few months in hospital he was able to walk with 2 crutches. He remained on 2 crutches for around 1 year, then moved to using 1 crutch for around another year and has now been crutch free for over 7 years.

Although Ruari can now walk unaided it took him a long time to adjust to his injury as he had big dreams for his future and exciting adventures ahead. He went from a world where being active and playing sport meant everything to him to barely being able to put on a pair of socks. It was then he heard about the M2M charity and felt that a trip to the mountains could be the perfect goal to really focus him and push forward his mental and physical progress & rehabilitation to another level. Ruari was grateful to have the Viking Challenge as a target to work towards to aid his rehabilitation and came back very content. He said “The trip itself had plenty of surprises which pushed me to the limit physically (ice and rock climbing) and at times mentally. The vertical rock/ice climbs brought me a huge sense of achievement, happiness and a buzz I hadn't felt in a long time and they have also inspired me to try my hand at more rock climbing which I have done since I have come home!”

“Throughout the process Lois and Ed have provided me with so much support and I am very happy that they chose me to come on this trip with them and I look forward to participating in more events and trip with them in future!”

Matthew Allen

Matt was admitted to hospital on the 11th December 2019 after having a bout of sickness the day before. Once in hospital he started to deteriorate rapidly and before his friends and family could take a breath Matt was in a coma, his kidneys not functioning and neither were his lungs. With no clear diagnosis, or explanation, it was now clear he had sepsis and was in septic shock. Following the stay in ITU, Matt was diagnosed with Peroneal Nerve Palsy, Compartment Syndrome and Bilateral Drop Foot which in turn have resulted in lower leg paralysis in both legs. This was a very stressful time for both Matt and his partner Jen who is also an M2M beneficiary but Matt’s positive outlook has meant he’s kept in high spirits and is still fighting to make more of a recovery. Matt had another surgery in September 2021 which meant he couldn’t attend the Alpine Challenge but was able to come along to the Walk The Coast event down in Cornwall and the M2M weekend in Wales and get’s a lot out of being outside and with like-minded people. Matt said “I love how they have managed to create a small community of like-minded people. Facing a new disability can be a lonely place, but M2M has provided me a place where I feel accepted and surrounded by people who understand my journey. I will forever be grateful to them for their support and been shown that my disability doesn’t have to stop me living life. In fact, it can be a springboard into an adventure and laughter filled one.”

I had just woken up from a coma following multi organ failure. I faced the realisation that I had paralysis of the lower legs from a complication. The doctors assured us that this would be a temporary paralysis and would improve over time. Many appointments and tests later it was confirmed that this, in fact was permanent. My world changed that day.

Having been out of hospital a few months, we were flung into lockdown and medical support was minimal. I was sent a link to Ed’s story via my girlfriend who saw that I was struggling with my recovery and new limits.

It was inspiring.

I was awestruck by his determination and found myself asking why I wasn’t I out there doing the same.

We both reached out to Millimetres2Mountains and the rest is history.