Sunday 16 December 2018

'I’m afraid of losing my independence but I'm thankful for every day that I have' - Popular priest finishes walk for motor neuron disease

Fr Tony Coote
Fr Tony Coote
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

An Irish priest who has motor neuron disease has completed a 550km walk from the north to the south of Ireland – and raised €250,000 for motor neuron disease.

Fr Tony Coote, a former chaplain of UCD, walked from Letterkenny in Donegal to Ballydehob in Cork in 27 days.

The priest was diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND) less than a year ago. MND is a progressive neurological condition that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. It can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe.

The priest and his team began their walk in Letterkenny, Donegal on Tuesday July 10, stopping at towns in Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Limerick on their way.

They arrived as planned in Ballydehob in Cork on Monday

Fr Tony said: “This time last year I was fit and healthy – I had no idea what was in store for me. None of us know when it might be their turn and so, I’m determined to turn my experience into a positive force for future generations of MND sufferers.”

Broadcaster Jonathan Healy, who is an Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA) board member, said: “Fr. Tony Coote is an incredible inspiration to us all, from the moment he was diagnosed, true to the man himself he automatically thought of others living with Motor Neurone Disease and how he could best help them.”

Róisín Duffy, CEO of IMNDA said: “The awareness and funds that Fr Tony Coote and his fantastic team have achieved is truly remarkable.”

Fr Tony Coote and his team
Fr Tony Coote and his team

“We have three nurses that travel the length of this country visiting over 370 people with MND in their homes. We receive no funding for this vital service.”

“Fr Tony has really highlighted this fact right across the country and his drive will not only go towards funding an essential service but it will also go towards finding a treatment and providing some hope for future generations”

Following the initial shock of his diagnosis, Tony resolved to do something positive.

He said: “I’m not afraid of death. Of course I’m afraid of losing my independence and, even though I struggle with it, I get up every morning and say ‘Lord thank you for today, please help me through the rest of it’. It is frustrating because everything is slower and takes longer. But I’m not angry. I don’t ask ‘why me’. Things happen in life and I leave myself in the hands of God.”

Professor Orla Hardiman of Trinity College Dublin said the money raised by Fr Coote and his team “will be put to very good use”.

"We have already identified the projects that this donation will support. The projects will find better ways to measure the effects of new drugs, and to speed up new discoveries.”

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