Fraser’s New Chair

North Berwick Trust today supports a myriad of local organisations and charities with educational, recreational, cultural, sporting and conservation activities. But not many people know that the Trust sometimes also supports individuals. One of the Trust’s aims is simply ‘to help those in need in our community’.

North Berwick Trust has strict funding criteria of course, in order to guide decision-making and ensure that the grants programme is run for the benefit of the whole community, but the Trust does also consider applications from individuals in need.

Fraser, one of our individual grant applicants, kindly agreed to share his story.

Fraser is a young man aged 28 years who lives with his family in North Berwick. Fraser became ill with E coli 0157 aged just 3 years old and developed haemolytic uremic syndrome followed by multi-organ failure. Against all odds Fraser survived, but he has been left suffering severe and frequent spasms, dystonic cerebral palsy, neuromuscular kyphosis, and restrictive lung disease, as well as chronic renal failure.

Fraser depends on a specialised sit-to-stand Permobil powered wheelchair. Crucially, although Fraser does not have control of his body, he can use his thumb and forefinger, which enables him to operate the chair himself and move his body into different positions. As a result, despite the severity of his physical disability, Fraser has kept well and out of hospital for around 12 years. Much of this is attributed to the health benefits associated with his wheelchair. Fraser’s occupational therapist described it as ‘the only powered wheelchair I have been able to identify that meets Fraser’s needs to self-position into full recline and into standing. This chair is an invaluable piece of equipment and brings enormous benefit to Fraser.’ Fraser’s chair literally offers him a lifeline and provides him with some independence, allowing him to go outside for instance, at the same time affording enormous health benefits.

Current Wheelchair Service rules only permit the provision of a standard wheelchair, but Fraser has needed the functions of a sit-to-stand chair since he was at primary school. These wheelchairs last around 5 years before needing to be replaced. His first chair was jointly funded by Education, Health and Social Work. Since leaving school, subsequent chairs have been provided by a combination of fundraising and approaching charities which help specifically with wheelchair provision. However, most of these charities have an age restriction for wheelchairs, which Fraser has now exceeded.

Fraser’s mother, Fiona, said: ‘North Berwick Trust came to our rescue at a critical time. Fraser was desperately in need of a replacement specialised wheelchair. He can’t cope with a standard wheelchair and, in terms of moving and handling, I can’t look after him myself without the functions of the specialised wheelchair. Fraser’s disability does not fall into a specific category, so he cannot benefit from large charities which help support those with particular conditions (such as muscular dystrophy). Moreover, there are incredibly few charities helping with wheelchairs once you are in your 20s. I really didn’t know where to turn to for help; and we were in the middle of a pandemic, so any attempt to fundraise was likely to be even more difficult than usual. A friend suggested applying to North Berwick Trust. The application process was straightforward. Words cannot describe the relief when we discovered that the application had been successful. As a family we are so incredibly grateful to North Berwick Trust. We now have peace of mind that Fraser can continue to benefit from the quality of life the specialised wheelchair gives him.’

Some initial funding had already been gratefully received from smaller local organisations, but once the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, charitable funding options were scarce. David Tweedie, Chair of North Berwick Trust, said: ‘We were delighted to be able to offer the majority of funding for a new power wheelchair for Fraser. If you are an individual in need, and cannot source funding from more traditional sources, please reach out to North Berwick Trust. We cannot promise to help, but we will consider all applications from individuals in need, and our Grants and Communications Officer can guide you through the application process if required’.

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