Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
A fundraising campaign has been launched for former international Andrew Patterson who is set to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair after suffering a rare hereditary disorder.
Andrew, who played 60 times for Ireland from 1996 to 2002 and represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games in 1998, was diagnosed with Heriditary Spastic Paraplegia – known as HSP, a progressive weakness and stiffness of the legs - in March 2013.
Despite adapting his home to accommodate the changes required for the deterioration of his legs, which cost more than £200,000, the 45-year-old from Newtownabbey, is now in need of a lift in his house to give Andrew access to the bedroom and upstairs.
(The Patterson Brothers pictured at Malahide in 2018)
Reconstructing the staircase would have cost far more than anticipated so the advice is to install a lift and that why Andrew, a father of three, is appealing for support through a go-fund page.
The target is to raise £25,000 but by 6pm last night, barely 24 hours after the page was opened, almost £18,000 had been raised from more than 400 donors.
“It’s an unbelievable response, I’m very humbled by it and would like to sincerely thank everyone who has donated. It’s just incredible,” said Andrew.
It was just two weeks ago that he received confirmation from the consultant that things were going to get worse and, possibly quickly.
“There are more than 20 strains of spastic paraplegia and just a couple of weeks ago I got the news it was SPG7 and things will continue to deteriorate,” he added.
“How fast depends on the individual but for now I’m getting around on a zimmer frame with wheels but, definitely my mobility has got a lot worse.
“I didn’t expect it to snowball as quickly and as well as needing a lift to get upstairs will also need an ensuite for the bedroom.
“The hardest thing is that I was quite active socially but now I only go out if it’s not too much hassle.”
About 10 years ago, Andrew started losing his balance and initially it was put down to a problem with his ears. After two years of tests it was finally diagnosed as a form of HSP.
Neither his mother or father had it but it was a millions to one chance they would come together with a dormant gene and then it was a one in four chance that either Andrew or his brother, Mark, who also played cricket for Cliftonville and Ireland, would get it.
Since the summer of 2019, Andrew had been relying on crutches to get around but he now knows the zimmer frame will soon be followed by a wheelchair.
Life is already so different for Andrew, who has been living in England since he became a professional cricketer with Sussex in 2000 and for 16 years was a PE teacher, first at King’s College School, Wimbledon and since 2007 in Caterham School, Surrey.
With his wife, Sarah, working full-time, Andrew is now having to rely on his in-laws to help with their children, Ella (14), Brooke (12) and Drew (10).
“I’m still in school, had a meeting with occupational health and will have discussions with the HR department in the school to decide how I can continue or if my contract has to change.“