12 Mar 2020

Climb into the night - one step at a time!

We chat to Ben Lovell, a brilliant local guy who is taking part in our climb into the night event.

Beth Currie, Fundraising & Marketing Manager

Today I met Ben for the first time. I’ve followed his journey through our friends at Get Fit 4 Mental Wellness. They run up the Scammonden Steps every Sunday, gathering people together who are struggling with their mental health. It’s a movement that’s gained so much momentum over the past year, they’re now regularly seeing 50 – 60 people every Sunday morning tackling the steps. Ben is one of them. Ben is an amputee.

“In April 2017, I started getting a cramp in my right calf. I’d been to the doctors a few times and they’d diagnosed me with sciatica. But then in July, my foot turned white and I was rushed to the BRI. I’d lost the pulse in my foot. I had a bypass operation on September 19th which didn’t work. Three days later, they told me I needed to start considering amputation for a better quality of life. I went home to think about it and thought I’d try and get through Christmas and then think about it again, but I couldn’t leave it. I decided to go for the operation”.

On 29th November 2017, Ben had his right leg removed just below the knee. He doesn’t remember much about it, the pain not being too bad for the following few days because of the painkillers. He said hospital was fairly easy. He had a bit of physio and then was sent home. “That’s when it really dawned on me how much life was going to change. You can’t just get up for a wee whenever you want. You can’t make yourself a brew. Absolutely everything was going to change”.

Ben has suffered several mental breakdowns on his journey and has, at times, turned to drugs to mask what he’s been going through. “For the first six months, the pain was really hard. Excruciating. For those first six months I just sat on the couch”. During that time though, Ben followed lots of other amputees on social media and started to feel inspired to do something positive. He started going to the gym and although he has been up and down in terms of his mental health, he hasn’t stopped getting back up again. He’s currently 16 weeks clean from any drugs and whilst he admits there have been dark days, he knows he’s made it through those days without the help of anything else other than himself and those around him.

“I’ve decided I want to share positivity. It occurred to me when I was in hospital that everyone who comes to see you, every medical professional who talks to you – all have two legs. How can they understand how I’m feeling? I want to help others who’ve been amputated. I went to the amputee ward and came across two men crying. I knew exactly how that felt. I shared my story and they were both so grateful to hear it from someone who had been through it. It’s grown from there really, I still have ups and downs but if I can help people along the way then there’s light in a bad situation. We’ve lost a limb, not a life”.

Ben saw our ‘Climb into the Night’ event advertised on Facebook and says he thought “I’m challenging myself to that. I haven’t decided whether to do it on one leg or two yet, but I’m doing it”. He wants to help us to raise funds and awareness for the people we support. “There’s a perception of homeless people that they’ve never worked or done anything, but actually everyone’s vulnerable to it. It’s sad that so many people don’t see how easy it is to slip into a situation where your livelihood becomes vulnerable. There’s so much more that people could do to support. Have one night out less a month and donate that money and you won’t feel half as bad as you would do on a Monday morning!”

Ben is also going to be volunteering his time with us. He’ll be talking to some of our clients and sharing his story with them. “I’m looking forward to helping more people and showing them that there is life after something horrible happens to you, whatever that horrible thing might be”.

It was really lovely to chat to Ben today. He’s refreshingly honest and open and, without a doubt, inspirational (whether he wants to hear that or not)! We can’t wait to see him tackle the climb. If you’d like to take part (and if Ben’s doing it, then there’s really no excuse!) please email beth@calderdalesmartmove.org.uk for more information, or take a look at the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/197188814707276/