Man with broken back to swim lough

A man with a broken back plans to swim across Lough Neagh in a bid to help a young boy with cerebral palsy in his quest to walk.

Dean Wood, a member of Lurgan Masters swimming club, knew nothing of four-year-old Caleb Kerr until he was in his local Chinese takewaway and read about the young boy’s ‘Will 2 Walk’ campaign.

Now he’s preparing to break records for the cerebral palsy sufferer by setting himself a gruelling challenge.

This Saturday Dean will set out from Massereene at 4.30am. He hopes to arrive at Maghery Country Park at 1.30pm having swum the length of Lough Neagh.

Dean, who is originally from Wales, told the ‘MAIL’: “I broke my back in a car accident 13 years ago.

“Since the accident the only form of exercise I can take part in is swimming.

“I’ve competed in able bodied and disabled competitions throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“I’ve been a member of Lurgan Masters for 10 years. They’ve really helped with the training.”

He explained: “When I read about Caleb’s Will 2 Walk appeal I wanted to do something to help so I contacted the family and offered to swim the lough for Caleb. I reckon I’ll be the first person with a disability to have done it.”

Caleb’s father Nigel said: “It’s quite a feat to swim 20 miles for someone who is able bodied, so for Dean to do this will be a phenomenal achievement. It’s such a great effort to help.”

Both Dean and the Kerr family are customers of Lindsay Ford in Craigavon who have helped significantly with the fundraising effort. As well as the swim and fun day at Maghery Country Park, a raffle is taking place on October 31.

Caleb suffers from spastic cerebral palsy and relies on his wheelchair and kaye walker to get around.

The funds being raised are to get him equipment and intensive physio to build up his strength for an operation known as SDR, where the spinal cord is operated on to take away the spasticity.

Thanks to muscle relaxants Caleb has been able to walk, but the medication route only offers a temporary fix.

It had originally been estimated that £70,000 was needed to send Caleb to America for the operation, but it has since transpired that an operation is available in UK which Caleb’s doctors have given the green light for.

So far Caleb’s Will 2 Walk fundraising efforts has raised between £13,000 and £15,000.

Caleb, from Richmond Road in Portadown, has five brothers and sisters - Adam (19), Jessica (16), Joshua (8), Hannah (7) and Benaiah (2).

Nigel said: “He had it since birth, but we didn’t realise until he was about seven or eight months old. It was diagnosed unofficially by the Buddy Bear Trust before he started getting treatment.

“He’s the life and soul of the party. He has a fantastic personality and he’s a real star.”