A care home resident is full of pride after his wife abseiled down the outside of Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral to raise money for charity.
Tony Ithell, 58, a resident of the Penybryn Brain Injury and Neurological Centre which is part of the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham, suffered a massive stroke two years ago.
Now, his wife Julia, a serving Merseyside police officer, has raised £1,380 for the Stroke Association by conquering her fear of heights to do the abseil down the side of the 101 metre high cathedral.
According to Julia, she wanted to do something for Tony, a former forklift driver at Shotton Paper Mill on Deeside, in Flintshire, after he suffered the debilitating stroke that’s left him needing 24 hour around the clock care.
The grandmother of five said: “Our lives have been turned upside down since Tony suffered a massive stroke in August 2014. Married for 35 years we have two daughters, Cara, who is 29 and Alexis, who is 33.
“Tony worked hard and when he wasn’t at work he was always on hand to help with the grandchildren.
“We went on holiday to the Lake District and I was away from the caravan we’d hired when I got a call to come back as Tony wasn’t well.”
Julia, who lives in Ellesmere Port, says as soon as she got back to the caravan she realised Tony’s condition was serious.
She said: “He looked asleep but when I pulled up his eye lid to look at his eyes there was clearly a massive problem. We called an ambulance and Tony was airlifted to Preston Hospital.
“He spent two weeks in intensive care. At first they couldn’t find the blood clot as it was too near his brain stem.
“It’s been horrendous and a terrible time. It’s almost like grieving in a way despite not actually losing someone.
“Tony has changed totally. He just can’t do the simple tasks that were so easy before. His brain just doesn’t work the same way anymore. He comes home every other weekend but it’s difficult.
“When we knew Tony was going to need around the clock care and after he’d been transferred to Clatterbridge to recuperate, we had to look around for a care home that was best for Tony.
“I chose Pendine Park after visiting and speaking to the registered manager, Tracey Cuthill. She has been a massive help and given me so much advice.
“Tony is settled here now and really enjoys all the activities. He loves the disco they have every week and is now the regular bingo caller for their regular Friday afternoon bingo sessions. He also enjoys craft sessions and loves taking pictures.
“He thinks the world of Elaine Lee the activities co-ordinator and she’s able to motivate him and get him involved. He looks after some residents and has taken a few under his wing.”
Julia, who is works with Merseyside Police’s Smithdown Lane Traffic Unit, says tackling the abseil was scary.
She said: “I am terrified of heights so it really wasn’t easy but I wanted to do it for Tony and a lot of the staff at Penybryn sponsored me which was fantastic. The main thing was not to look down!”
Pendine Park enrichment and activities co-ordinator Elaine Lee revealed Tony was very popular among the other Penybryn residents.
She said: “They love him and enjoy his jokes. He takes part in most things although he likes to sleep a lot because of his condition. I just try to encourage him as much as I can. He loves photography so I try to get involved with a camera when I can.
“It’s fantastic that Julia did the abseil and raised so much for the Stroke Association. Lots of Penybryn staff members sponsored her as it was for such a good cause.
“Julia visits Tony regularly and he goes home every other weekend. They are a lovely couple and Tony’s stroke has been devastating and life-changing for them both.”
Penybryn manager Tracey Cuthill said: “I take my hat off to Julia who did the abseil even though she is scared of heights – now that’s what I call real courage.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you believe passionately in something and Julia has demonstrated that she is a remarkable woman – and she has raised a great deal of money for a good cause in the process.”