A teenager from Wetherby is hoping to scale England’s highest mountain – a few years after chronic illness meant she couldn’t walk her dog to the end of the road without feeling exhausted. Sophie Atkinson and three friends from Harrogate College are set to climb Scafell Pike to raise money for the ME Association charity, which supports patients and funds research into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.
The 19-year-old was diagnosed with ME, an illness which causes extreme tiredness that does not go away with rest or sleep and which has no known cure, after suffering from glandular fever five years ago. Now with friends Sarah Murphy, Lauryn Brogatzki and Rheanna Ainsley, she plans to take on the notorious craggy Cumbrian slopes of Scafell next month, and is taking on training walks in preparation.
“It’s the biggest physical challenge I’ve ever done, so I’m excited and nervous at the same time.” she admits.
“I never thought I would be well enough to do anything like this. But I’m one of the very lucky ones. I still have to be very careful about monitoring my energy, and I still get good days and bad days. But my health has improved enough for me to feel that I could take this challenge on, and I’m so grateful for that.”
Sophie’s illness meant that she missed a lot of school, forcing her to drop some of her GCSEs. She is now studying Health and Social Care at Harrogate College and hopes to start university in September and train as a midwife.
“In the early days of my illness, I remember walking the dog to the end of the road and thinking: “I can’t do this.” I was wiped out, I had to go home. With ME, it’s not just the extreme tiredness – there were night sweats, brain fog – where you just can’t concentrate – and muscle aches.
“As a teenager, probably the hardest thing was that my friends would be out, being normal teenagers, and I’d be at home, seeing what they were doing on social media. That was really tough. A massive part of having ME is the impact it has on family as well as the individual; the support of my mum and step-Dad, John, is what got me through my worst days.”
Helen Hyland, from the ME Association said: “We’re pleased to hear that Sophie feels well enough to take on this challenge, and know that she’ll take a sensible attitude, stopping when she needs to rest and giving herself plenty of time to recover afterwards.”
Good luck to our Health and Social Care students who are embarking on this journey with Sophie!