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‘I wanted to see if I still could’: MS patient raises charity cash with gruelling challenge

Nicola Park, who has MS, raised more than £1,600 by completing an open water swim in aid of Aberdeen charity Aims. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

A north-east woman has defied her life-limiting illness with a daring charity challenge in honour of her late mother.

Nicola Park, from Aberdeen, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) three years ago.

The condition causes part of the immune system to attack the body, and can lead to pain, fatigue and problems with concentration, among many other symptoms.

Her mother, Maureen Thomson, also had the condition and was a passionate supporter of local charity Aims (Aberdeen Independent Multiple Sclerosis) up until her death.

Determined to give back, Nicola embarked on a mission to continue her mum’s links with the organisation.

‘I wanted to see if I still could’

Previously a champion swimmer, the 47-year-old took to the chilly waters of Loch Morlich to attempt a half-mile swim.

As well as raising cash for Aims, Nicola also wanted to see if she could overcome her illness and rekindle her lifelong passion.

“At first, I wasn’t raising money at all,” she said.

“I was only planning to do it for myself to see if I still could.

“It was so close to the swim when mum passed away and she did a lot of fundraising for Aims.

Nicola and her friends swimming in Loch Morlich
Nicola and her friends swimming in Loch Morlich

Nicola added: “My mum was somebody that never gave up on anything.”

“Her mobility was very poor, but she was able to teach the kids how to crochet, how to knit, she used to bake with them. She always had a positive outlook on things.

“It’s just seeing what you can do – rather than what you can’t.”

Swim itself was ‘easiest part’

Prior to her diagnosis, Nicola had been a dedicated swimmer.

She said: “I’ve done open water swims previously in Loch Lomond.

“This was certainly more difficult from when I did those – and certainly slower.

“I was a competitive swimmer as a kid – the swimming bit was probably easier, the hardest part was walking out at the end, that was quite difficult.”

Nicola after her swim, holding a medal on the banks of Loch Morlich.
Nicola after her swim

Charity offering key support to MS patients

Aims was set up earlier this year after breaking away from the UK-wide MS Society.

It works to support the 2,000 north-east people who have faced an MS diagnosis, with social gatherings and online classes.

Nicola initially set a fundraising target of £300, but eventually netted £1,600 for the cause.

She added: “It’s been amazing, folk are so generous, absolutely amazing.”

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