Family tragedy spurs Norwich man on

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 March 2011

Chris O'Flaherty  (right) suffers from motor neurone disease. He is in training  for the Great North Run with Simon Peck from the White Horse, Chedgrave.

Chris O'Flaherty (right) suffers from motor neurone disease. He is in training for the Great North Run with Simon Peck from the White Horse, Chedgrave.

Archant © 2011

A 33-year-man has spoken of his battle with motor neurone disease which has already claimed the lives of his brother and mother.

Chris O’Flaherty, from Costessey, near Norwich, said the family’s case had “baffled” doctors and was very unusual.

Mr O’Flaherty’s older brother Richard was the first to be diagnosed with the disease, which involves the progressive wasting of muscles, and was in his 20s when he died about nine years ago.

Their mother Patricia Birkett-Stubbs died about three years ago and was in her 50s. Both had an aggressive form of the disease.

Mr O’Flaherty has been told that he is suffering from a “slower” form 
and says he takes each day as it comes.

He is raising funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association by taking part in the Bupa Great North Run with the help of friend Simon Peck, landlord of the White Horse pub in Chedgrave, near Loddon.

Mr Peck will help push Mr O’Flaherty in his wheelchair around the half-marathon course between Newcastle and South Shields on September 18.

Mr O’Flaherty is a regular at the White Horse and plays pool there. Both men went to Hobart High School in Loddon.

Mr O’Flaherty enjoyed a normal childhood with his family in the Chedgrave/Loddon area and was in his 20s when he starting having problems with walking.

“I just dragged my feet and couldn’t lift them up for some reason,” he said. “It has devastated my family and is very unusual.”

He added that he is “outliving 
the text books,” which suggest 
three to five years life expectancy, 
as he has had the disease 
for about eight years.

Mr O’Flaherty has recently lost a friend to the disease and said this, coupled with losing his brother and mother, was difficult to put into words.

“I take every day as it comes. It might not progress anymore. It is a blessing when I wake up each morning,” he said. The Norwich and Waveney branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association has been very supportive, part funding Mr O’Flaherty’s wheelchair and mobility vehicle.

Mr Peck, 37, has raised funds for charity through running before and the pair are looking to raise as much money as possible.

He said: “I want to support Chris. When he comes in here you see courage and determination. It makes you think there are other people like Chris who need help and support.

“Chris has got an incredibly strong character and is an incredibly strong person. “A lot of people would sit at home thinking I am next, but Chris is not like that.”

To sponsor the pair, go to or call the pub on 01508 520250.

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