We were told just over two weeks ago that our Dad Anthony Fleming had just been diagnosed with MND/ALS. When I heard that news I wanted to punch holes in history and the wall so my girlfriend encouraged me enough to join her at the gym. I reluctantly tagged along and when I got there I almost drove the hand bike through the floor with anger, I was punching hard with each revolution, taking it out on the defenceless machine. However, It turns out that I had done the most extreme ten minutes exercise of my life and through that I had released all of the negative energy and I carried on with my routine.
A few days later I went to stay with my Dad and we sculled a few bottles of non alcoholic beer and got drunk on each other’s company. We reminisced and watched movies. He told me that he wanted to climb Lug again and that he wanted to make it meaningful. He was going to hike up 925 metres and back down again to raise awareness of MND and raise money for MND research. He wanted to make a video and ask for donations while asking people to join him on the hike. He went on to do just that with the help of his lovely lady Linda.
At short notice we rounded up 27 friends and family members. Some were seasoned hikers and others were first timers throwing themselves in at the deep end. We had three generations of Mr. Fs. 59th Dublin Scouts, a mixed crew of Wicklow Civil Defence members, sisters, daughters, mothers, sons, brothers, fathers, friends and friends of friends. We were to hike from Glenmalure via Arts Lough and on to Lug, a hike Anthony had led us on many times as a scouts back in the day, a hike we all knew to be tough.
We met at 9am at the ford in Glenmalure on a beautiful sunny morning. Our Wicklow Civil Defence amigos kicked into gear and immediately took a decision on which route we should take. We moved our cars, geared up and It was nearly 9.30am by the time we set off across the bridge and up the hill.
We arrived at Arts Lough at 11.30am. Anthony had taken a few tumbles on the steeper and wetter inclines and so he was flanked by scouts and friends rotating assistance to him on the harder parts. This was not an easy climb for any of us let alone a man already suffering the effects of Motor Neurone Disease. We rested and enjoyed the view at Arts Lough while the sun shone down on us between passing clouds.
We had another steep climb ahead before we hit the top of the hill above Arts Lough. Civil Defence members led the troop and we slowly etched our way upward. Anthony had spotters walking before him pointing out the best and easiest route for him to move forward. He had two and three helpers by his side the whole way up this incline, each supporting and guiding him as he climbed. Again this was done in rotation and again friends selflessly stepped in to give the legendary Mr.F a helping hand in achieving his goal.
We reached the top of the hill at 13.30 and Anthony took a well deserved seat. He was very tired and his leg was hurting. We could see the top of Lug about an hours walk ahead basking in glorious sunshine and we hoped that it would stay like that for our arrival. I had never been on the Lugnaquilla summit in the sunshine with clear views, maybe this was going to be the day.
Not feckin likely. Half way across the plains a big old cloud moved in on us and we were walking in a mist on Lugnaquilla once again. With the cloud came wind and with the wind came sideways rain. It was hard going and Anthony with pain in his leg, arm and back was already worn down and battered. Marshall Mc Eriane asked people to crowd around and walk in front of Anthony to block the weather and allow him to walk the final few hundred meters. That’s exactly what they did for him. It was powerful and at 14.20 he had reached the summit of Lugnaquilla Mountain at 925 metres in the lashing rain to a huge applause.
On the way back down Anthony was having severe trouble with his leg and back. He was hunched over and the pain was making him reconsider walking down. He had achieved his goal. We reached out and were given two pain killers and two paracetamol all overseen by paramedic Barry. On the plains Anthony was arm linked to and supported by someone at all times. When it was time to go back down the steep slopes he was again flanked by several people supporting and keeping him safe. He could not make it down some of the bigger steps and holes by himself so he was lifted and carried when needed. The lads rotated and swapped positions and a big effort got him back to the forest path where he could again walk unaided.
Anthony made it back to the car park at 18.37 to a hero’s cheer, cakes, a glass of Champagne and a million midges. He had completed his goal in 9 hours. Physically and emotionally tired it was time to go and get the man a well deserved Mojito.
This was a team effort.
Members and ex members of Wicklow Civil Defence kept us safe and guided us on our way.
Friends and family helped support each other along the way.
Several of the lads never left my Dad’s side on his way up and on his way down the mountain.
Kate and Fearghal’s pharmacy supplied the medicine.
Beautiful Wicklow supplied the views.
Sandra fell more than my Dad but kept going with a smile on her face, well done girl.
Dennis guided us through the mist.
Marshall Mc Eriane was amazing and deserves a special mention. He was above and beyond looking after my Dad the whole day. He’s a true gent and a man with a plan.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being part of this, for your compassion, friendship and all your help.
It’s a great achievement by all.
I’m proud to be your son Anthony Fleming. You are my super hero and I love you.
My Dad Anthony has his own my charity page now and would love for you to spread the word that he is raising money for Research Motor Neurone Ireland. Thank you and please share the link.
Click this photo for the full gallery with photos from Paul, Niall, Fearghal, John, Kate, Tiarnan and myself.
~ Prof Patrick McNally, DCU