Ruth’s incredible journey

A paraplegic woman has been able to come to East Lothian for her first holiday in over thirty years thanks to the support of her local community.

Ruth Jenkins from Wick was left paralysed from the waist down 12 years ago after a neck operation went wrong and her life changed completely overnight. Unable to live at home with her husband anymore, for the past 11 years she has lived in a care home where she spends much of her time on her own. She only gets to see her husband three times a week when he makes the two hour round trip from their village to visit her.

Last year she mentioned to a friend from her local church that she would love to have a break away somewhere, but couldn't see how it could ever happen. Her friend, retired solicitor Jean McLennan, had heard about Leuchie House respite centre in East Lothian and knew it would be the ideal place for Ruth to have a break. She decided there and then she would do whatever it took to get Ruth there.

She launched a major local fundraising campaign and gained the support of the whole community. The campaign raised enough to cover the cost of an 11 night break for Ruth at Leuchie House plus expenses and spending money.

Jean then tackled – and overcame - all the logistical difficulties involved in getting Ruth from Wick to East Lothian. This included getting the support of Logan Air to donate Ruth's flights from Wick to Edinburgh for free.

A year in the planning, Ruth arrived at Leuchie last week for her break. “I felt a bit nervous at first,” she recalls, “because it was unlike anywhere I’d ever been and I wasn’t used to being with so many other people.”

In no time, however, she relaxed and was able to enjoy her much-anticipated break to the full. “It has been absolutely brilliant. It’s like one big family and I’ve loved getting to know everybody. The staff can’t do enough for you. They don’t treat you like you’re disabled. You’re just ‘normal’ to them.”

The Leuchie team aim to do everything they can to support guests to do things they wouldn’t normally be able to do. As a classical music lover, Ruth dreamt of going to a concert or musical performance – something she is unable to do at home. With the support of the Leuchie team, she enjoyed her first ever night at the opera with a trip to see La Boheme at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. She was also able to go shopping, take part in all Leuchie’s in-house activities, and have a chance to socialise with other guests.

Mairi O’Keefe, Leuchie’s Chief Executive said: “It has been so special to welcome Ruth to Leuchie and to see the transformation in her over the course of her break. Like many of our guests, she has been quite lonely and isolated at home. Being able to socialise, get involved in everything going on at Leuchie, and to get out and about has clearly done her the world of good.

“For us, her story reinforces just how vital respite breaks are. There are so many people like Ruth out there who could really benefit from the lifeline they offer. Adequate funding for respite continues to be an issue, however, but we will keep doing everything we can to push for more financial support to be made available.”