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Why I abseiled 400ft for the MS Trust

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Daisy at the top of the tower

Daisy Doncaster, MS Forward View project coordinator at the MS Trust, decided she wanted to challenge herself to raise money for the charity.

Here she explains how she ended up abseiling down the tallest permanent abseil tower in the world.

It’s been almost a year since I started working at the MS Trust as an intern – as the project coordinator for MS Forward View. Working at the charity has had a huge impact on me, as I’ve been lucky enough to meet some genuinely inspirational individuals. I’ve met MS Trust employees, now colleagues, who work tirelessly to support people with multiple sclerosis. I’ve met MS specialist health professionals who are dedicated to improving the lives of people living with MS, no matter how stretched they are in the context of an unstable and ever-changing NHS.

I’ve also met people with MS who face such uncertain futures, living with a condition which doesn’t have a cure and which can be so unpredictable, but who don’t let that get in the way of their passions. All of these people have taught me so much, and shown me that this is an organisation that really does make a difference. Thus, I was inspired to set myself a fundraising challenge for this worthy cause, with ‘challenge’ being the operative word.

Really, really big

After a little research, I came across the National Lift Tower in Northampton (which just so happens to be the tallest permanent abseil tower in the world, at over 400ft). It soon dawned on me (after booking) how incredibly high 400ft actually was. It’s two and a half Nelson’s Columns. It’s 27 two-storey houses stacked on top of each other. It’s… really, really big. I wouldn’t say I had a crippling fear of heights, but let’s just say that I’m definitely not an adrenalin junkie. I’ve also never abseiled before in my life. So I think the ‘challenge’ box was well and truly ticked.

Putting it out of my mind for a few months, I got to work on my fundraising, organising a pub quiz, raffle and bake sale which boosted my total hugely. Local businesses kindly donated to these events, and everyone’s generosity and support was overwhelming. (I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who has supported me!)

For the abseil itself, I was told that little physical preparation was necessary, but to work a little on my upper body strength. I’ll be honest with you, I can’t say that I was lifting weights every evening (or ever, actually) but I did stick to some arm (mini) workouts courtesy of YouTube.

Nervous anticipation

As the 30th of July – the big day – came closer, the fear began to set in. What if it was too physically demanding for weedy, pathetic little me? What if the wind picked up? What if I fainted halfway down?

On the morning of the abseil though, I was oddly calm. By then I just figured I’d simply go up there and get it over with. The tower was ridiculous up close. Completely absurd. This giant, concrete, monolithic structure standing tall over a housing estate (randomly), was on the skyline for a good 15 minutes before we actually arrived. Luckily I wasn’t kept waiting long when I got there, and my preparation and training only took 20 minutes or so.

Then, at the top, I faced the toughest part of the whole day – getting secured to the building and creeping over the edge to start the descent. The instructor told me to “just step up on to the ledge there. Yes, that approximately 7cm edge with nothing but thin air and potential death behind you. Go on...” (those may not have been her exact words). I then had to lean backwards and start to walk down, pulling 400ft of rope up as I went. Honestly, it was the most frightening few minutes of my life. At this point I was told to stop so a photo could be taken and to “look cheerful”.

An amazing achievement

It was quite hard work actually! And the wind picked up a bit, which didn’t make things easier, but it was also an incredible experience, and super exhilarating. It look me over 15 minutes to get down – but I did it! I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself, and especially proud that I have so far managed to raise just shy of £1,500(!!) for the MS Trust!

This could pay for a newly qualified MS specialist nurse to attend our foundational development course to equip him or her with vital skills and knowledge to help so many people with MS. It’s enough to fund our enquiry service for over a week. It’s enough to provide an MS nurse with enough publications and vital resources for three years. I am truly grateful to everyone who contributed to this amazing figure. I am over the moon.

Thanks to an inspiring person

One final note of thanks: to a lady I met at the British 10K London Run early in July. This lovely woman ran this incredible distance to raise money for the Trust. She has MS herself, as does another close family member. Unfortunately the week before the 10K she had a serious flare up of symptoms and was feeling very unwell. On the morning of the race though, she was determined to complete it. I met her after packing up our flags, banners and balloons for one of our cheering squads.

She was walking briskly, but struggling after about 8K in muggy weather, so I went over to her to see if she was alright. Despite aching hips and cramping legs, she was so determined, strong, and still cheerful, and we had a great natter as we completed the last 2K or so together. She was just brilliant, and such a lovely lady – I hope she’s incredibly proud of her amazing achievement. She is a real inspiration, and she really boosted me, three weeks before my abseil. Thank you.

Challenging yourself

If you’re considering a fundraising challenge, my advice is – go for it! Charities like the MS Trust rely on the hard work of our fundraisers and volunteers, so events like this really do make a difference. Also, from a purely selfish point of view, I found it a very rewarding experience – I’d highly recommend it!

So go on, challenge yourself. Go for a sneaky skydive, a cheeky trek, a little half marathon, a casual 10K – you can help the MS Trust support people living with MS to live the lives they want to lead, in spite of a challenging and complex condition. 

Daisy during her abseil

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