Devoted dad Stefan Leyland has walked 229 miles across Scotland to help pay for his son’s vital medical treatment in the USA.
Stefan, a Process Operator at Southern Water’s Hastings treatment works, took part in The Great Outdoors Challenge 2016 as part of efforts to raise an estimated £70,000 to send son Leo to the USA for surgery to help him walk.
Born 10 weeks premature in 2013 Leo weighed just 2.2 pounds. Scans revealed he suffered a brain haemorrhage in the womb and was later diagnosed as suffering from hemiplegia – a form of cerebral palsy. The condition affected Leo’s muscle and speech development and left him unable to walk. Stefan says Leo needs regular therapy and pioneering surgery which is unavailable on the NHS. “Without the surgery, Leo is going to find it really difficult to be mobile for the rest of his life, and I am just not going to let that happen,” he said.
Joined by dad Terry, along with brothers Robert and Chris, Stefan spent two weeks trekking across the Scottish Highlands from Malaig to St Cyrus on the east coast
across mountainous terrain carrying a full backpack, food, and tent. He says it was quite a challenge. “I did the trek back in 2006 but this time my mindset was completely different as it was for my son. It went well but it was tough. We were hit by all the elements – it was literally four seasons in one day. At first it was so sunny we could have been on a beach but then we had sleet, rain and snow. I was worried about my feet as I got awful blisters first time around but luckily they were absolutely fine.”
A lack of signal meant Stefan had little contact with his family back home in Hastings - partner Tarnia Baysting, Leo and eldest son Jake, six . “We take technology for granted and it was hard not being able to speak to them. For me, it felt like I was away for a month as there was so much time to think. It definitely makes you look at life a little bit differently and you get such a great sense of achievement.”
To date the trek has raised over £3,000 for Leo, which Tarnia says is, “An amazing achievement for them all.”
Stefan says his son has surprised everyone with his progress. “Early intervention and hard dedication is very important whilst the brain is still developing. Although Leo’s not walking yet he is making great progress and I noticed the change in just two weeks. He’s now starting to get up and is really trying hard.”
Stefan and Tarnia have set a target of two years to raise the money needed for Leo’s surgery. “We’re getting a lot of support from the people of Hastings, including the boys’ school St Paul’s CE. We’re a way off the target but we’ll get there.” To donate, visit: http://www.treeofhope.org.uk/leos-story-help-leo-to-walk