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Stoke fan raising awareness of his brother's rare disease

Paul (left) and Mark Harris

A football fan from Rode Heath will walk from Stoke City to Sheffield Wednesday in support of his brother who lives with a rare heart and lung disease.

41-year-old Mark Harris, will be joined by six friends on the 55-mile trek from the bet365 Stadium to Hillsborough Stadium.

Mark’s brother Paul has pulmonary hypertension (PH) – a serious condition affecting the heart and lungs – and the group are raising money for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK).

They will leave Stoke between 4.30 and 5pm and trek through the night to reach Hillsborough in time for the 3pm kick-off. They plan to visit the Pulmonary Vascular Disease Unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital nearby, to say a personal thank you for the care that Paul receives there.

Mark’s brother Paul, a 38-year-old civil servant, lives in Kidsgrove. He was diagnosed with PH in September 2015 and is hoping the challenge will help raise awareness of the little-known condition, which affects just 7,000 people in the UK.

Symptoms of PH typically involve breathlessness, fatigue, black-outs and swelling around the ankles, arms and stomach. The condition affects the ability to carry out basic tasks and get around.

Paul said: “One of the hardest things about living with the disease is that no one really knows what it is. I look fine on the outside, so it’s difficult for people to understand that it’s a life-limiting condition. It can be very challenging mentally too, and that’s something I have to deal with every single day.

“I’m really chuffed that Mark and the guys are taking on this walk to raise even more awareness, and money for the PHA UK. “

Mark, who is Dean of Higher Education at the Trafford College Group, said: “The first walk started off as an idea after a few drinks, and it’s now become an annual event. As Paul’s brother, it makes me feel like I can do something, as I can’t help in a medical capacity. This year, we hope to include a pre-match walk around the pitch to finish off in front of 25,000 cheering fans!

“The walk is in recognition of the support Paul has received from both the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and the PHA UK. It’s massively important that people understand more about PH. When I get asked in the street how my brother is doing, one of the frustrations is trying to explain what’s going on underneath when he looks so well on the outside - so we’re all hoping this challenge helps to raise awareness too.”

The group of Stoke City fans are no strangers to a long walk, having taken on similar challenges over the last two years. In 2016 they trekked across the Pennines from Alsager to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and last year, they completed the return leg. In total, £5,000 has been raised for the PHA UK. 

The team taking on the walk is made up of Mark Harris, Marc Fouldes, Rob Sandal, Mark Evans, Noel Scott, Julian Wilshaw and Laurence Greenhalgh.

Paul and his father Steve will drive ahead in a car filled with supplies, and park up every three miles to deliver refreshments. 

The PHA UK is based in Sheffield and is the only charity in the UK dedicated to supporting the PH community made up of patients, their family and carers and NHS professionals.

Chair Iain Armstrong added: “We’re very grateful to Mark and his friends for taking on this challenge and we wish them the best of luck. It’s vitally important that more people understand what life is like for people with pulmonary hypertension and events like this really help to get conversations going.”

To support the challenge, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/peaks4pha

 

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