Martin: “I hoped I’d never need your help, but thank goodness you were there”

Two weeks ago Martin Chester couldn't walk. Now the Essex ICT Service Delivery Manager is committing to walk or cross train 10km every day in July to raise funds for the Charity, to say thanks for the ongoing support he has received with an arterial problem in his legs.

I have been with Essex Fire and Rescue Service for three and a half years as the ICT Service Delivery Manager.¬†When I joined the service I was relatively fit and kept myself in relatively good condition. But when a colleague introduced me to running and we’d go for a run at lunchtimes, it soon became apparent that an existing problem I thought I had was steadily getting worse and running only highlighted this.

To cut a long story short, after several years of different treatment and tests I was diagnosed with Iliac endofibrosis, an arterial problem that prevents blood from flowing through to my legs. It causes pain while exercising, but more recently, I’ve found myself in constant pain. In Spring 2019 I ran the Colchester half marathon in aid of The Fire Fighters Charity, but this was my last time able to run as the symptoms had become too painful.

In November 2019 I had an operation to try to fix the arterial problem affecting my right leg. Due to a complication in the surgery called compartment syndrome, I had to have a second operation on my right calf to relieve this issues.

That December I attended Marine Court, the Charity’s residential centre in Littlehampton. When I got there I was still using crutches to walk, but by the end of the week, I was walking unaided. They gave me supervised specific exercises relevant to my injuries, as well as offering mental health support as I was really suffering mentally after going through so much change and being able unable to exercise as I used to.

I couldn’t complete my full rehabilitation because I still had open wounds, so the Charity invited me back for a second visit at the end of January, for another week of specific exercise and mental and physical therapy. By the end of that second week I was in a much better shape, although we discovered that all was not well. My original symptoms had returned.

I returned home and contacted my consultant, who ordered more tests, which showed that unfortunately my arterial problems had returned. In June I attended Colchester Hospital once more for another procedure to try and rectify things.

My symptoms are now much better and I am exercising again, although I don’t know if I will ever be able to run again.

The Fire Fighters Charity has been in regular contact with me throughout this time. They’ve given me ongoing support and advice, and even during lockdown they continue to stay in touch and give me as much support as they can.

The Charity is there for all of us and for our families. They are a great organisation and they need all the help they can get after the pandemic has seen them suffer a loss in income. They listen and tailor treatment to each individual and it’s clear just how much they care about the wellbeing of all fire service personnel. Without The Fire Fighters Charity, I would not be in the position I am now.

So I am carrying out a challenge throughout July, covering 10km a day either on a cross trainer or walking. This may not seem like a lot, but two weeks ago I still couldn’t walk.So if you’d like to donate to my fundraising, I’d really appreciate it. You can do so here.

I would encourage every member of staff to set up a regular contribution to The Fire Fighters Charity and this is easily done via direct debit, I contribute monthly and will continue to carry out fundraising events as long as my fitness will allow me. I thought and hoped that I would never need their help but thank goodness they were there. I dread to think where I would be now without the Charity’s support.