‘I never thought was that I would be asking for help in my time of need’ says Scots former senior British soldier
Larkhall’s Andy Lockhart describes the help SSAFA gave his wife after a stroke and how he is repaying the charity by taking on the Glasgow Kiltwalk.
There are many reasons why a person takes on a fundraising challenge for a third-sector organisation, be it SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity or the countless civilian groups out there.
Saying “Thank you”, the repayment of a debt comes quite high on the list of reasons. With SSAFA, it is often for people they have never met, those who have given their lives or health – physical or psychological – in wars past, but secure in the knowledge that the UK’s oldest tri-service charity will use it for others, people who are strangers.
For some, it is to say thank you for the support given to themselves or more often, a loved one.
One example is Larkhall resident Andy Lockhart, who is taking part in the Glasgow Kiltwalk for SSAFA on 30 April.
Andy retired in 2015 from the Royal Artillery a WO1 Regimental Sergeant Major, the highest rank before Late Entry Commission, with a view to a life at home with Linda, his childhood sweetheart and wife of 36 years.
In February 2022, Linda suffered renal failure and went into a coma. She then had a seizure and a stroke, which left her with a severe brain injury, and has led to life-changing and debilitating problems. She suffered cognitive, behavioural, and physical disabilities and will remain dependent on the care of others for the rest of her life.
“It was like someone ripping my soul away. I didn’t know where to turn, who to talk to or what to do apart from put my 27 years of military service back into play and try my hardest for my wife, daughter, and son and hopefully to come out of this with some sort of meaning in life.”
As the weeks and months followed, Andy never changed his daily regime of being at Linda’s bedside every day, talking to her, bathing her, exercising her joints, and reading to her hoping that she would continue to fight this second downturn and come back to him.
“I was robotic,” says Andy, now a mobile crane instructor.
“5.30am rise and head to work – I needed to work to continue to pay the bills – then finish work at 4pm and head straight to the hospital where I would sit and work with Linda until 9pm before returning home ready to start the whole regime again the next day.”
He was warned by family, friends, and NHS staff to slow down else he would burn out and be of no use to Linda, however:
“Being stubborn, I ignored their advice and continued to care for my wife and best friend hoping that she would return to me in some sort of shape or form where we could just get on with our lives.
“Gradually, with medication, perseverance, and damn hard work at times, Linda started to make progress. I managed to get her up and out of bed with daily exercise in her wheelchair, then her speech started to return rather than just a distant glare from her eyes.
“Through time Linda did ‘come back’ to me, but with permanent and irreversible brain damage, but we’ve not allowed this to get us down and fight it daily.”
After what Andy describes as “… 10 months of blood, sweat, and a lot of tears”, Linda is back in her home with full-time care during the day and Andy as her carer out of hours – all while holding down his day job.
Inevitably, this placed a financial burden on them.
“We always lived within our means, never getting ourselves into an area of financial debt which we could not control, but there was and is only so much I could do receiving my MOD pension and current wage, which don’t go far in this current climate that we are all suffering in some fashion within the UK.”
Andy decided to approach SSAFA for support, and says:
“I never thought was that I would be asking for help in a time of need myself, but with Linda falling ill, I swallowed my pride and asked for help from SSAFA, and I am lost for words on how to express my feelings when you responded with your help.
“The help that SSAFA has given Linda and me is outstanding.”
SSAFA approached and secured funding from the Royal Artillery Charitable Fund for a bespoke handrail to be fitted to the staircase in Linda and Andy’s home. SSAFA Lanarkshire Caseworker John Jamieson sourced a fabricator to design the rail and carry out the work.
Andy ends, saying:
“SSAFA’s efforts and the contribution from the Royal Artillery Charitable Fund towards paying for a handrail is absolutely brilliant and I will be forever in your debt.”
Andy and Linda’s story is just one out of thousands that SSAFA deals with each year. To support Andy on his 23-mile Glasgow Kiltwalk and to continue SSAFA’s life-changing work, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/Andy-lockhart2?utm.
All places on the Glasgow Kiltwalk have been filled, but spaces are still available on the Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh Kiltwalks. To take part and raise funds for the UK’s oldest tri-service charity, visit ssafa.org.uk/support-us/kiltwalk-2023.