Burnham-On-Sea swimming fundraiser

A Burnham-On-Sea couple are swimming the length of the English Channel at home to help save a charity that supports their daughter who became sick and never got better.

Dawn and Graham Brown from Burnham-On-Sea run their home, Tillington House, as a Christian retreat, and are swimming 2,834 lengths of their indoor pool during their lockdown exercise. They are now over halfway to France!

Their daughter, Charlotte, went down with glandular fever while at university and this developed into a devastating energy-sapping ME condition which so far she has been unable to shake off.

They aim to finish the distance in the next few days during ME Awareness Month and are raising funds for the ME Association, one of thousands of UK charities who saw their incomes take a plunge when hundreds of mass participation charity events were cancelled earlier in the year because of Coronavirus.

Charlotte, 25, who lives with her parents, struggled to complete her course in performing arts at the University of Bedford after going down with glandular fever in her first year. Still keen to complete the degree, she got her diagnosis of ME in her third year but still left college triumphant with a first class degree.

But she’s been unable to do anything with her degree since then.

“I finished my dissertation at 11pm that night, printed it off and burst into tears of relief! I’d finally got there, that was such a big thing for me. When I moved back home to my parents at the end of term, I crashed out because I was so sick, and was hardly able to leave the house for six months,” says Charlotte.

Nowadays she enjoys working short shifts in local shops to earn her keep and, although currently on furlough, is looking forward to getting back to work. She still sings with the Rock Choir on Zoom.

Her mother, who was ordained as a Baptist Minister 20 years ago, adds: “We have this lovely blue swimming pool at Tillington House and we wondered how we could use it through May to raise awareness and funds for the ME Association’s GoBlue4ME appeal. Compared to swimming the channel for real, our pool is heated and indoors – so we don’t expect a great deal of sympathy from others for the effort we’re putting in!”

Charlotte is among 265,000 Britons living with the incurable illness ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

It is a disease that can dramatically impact a person’s ability to function and is often triggered by an infection from which people never seem to recover. It doesn’t discriminate, affects all ages and ethnicities, and there is as yet no effective treatment.

One in four people are so severely affected that they become housebound or bedbound. Fears are growing that people recovering from the coronavirus may go on to develop ME. Early reports indicate that this is a distinct possibility.

The charity’s chairman, Neil Riley, says: “We are delighted that Dawn and Graham have taken on this challenge to help secure our future.”

“But there could be a new wave of ME coming down everybody’s street in the very near future. The ME Association needs to survive in order be able to help another generation of sufferers manage the condition as they best they can and fund research into effective treatments and a cure.”

If you would like to support the Channel swim challenge on Facebook, please visit here.


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