A former triathlete diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in March has fulfilled his bucket-list dream of riding in a JCB thanks to Nottinghamshire Hospice.
Sam Perkins, 38, was treated to a tour of the JCB World theme park’s headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire, followed by a 45 minute ride in a brand new JCB tractor after staff at Nottinghamshire Hospice – where Sam attends Day Therapy – contacted the company.
Sam said: “After my diagnosis we started looking to the future and the things I want to do that I’ve never done. I’ve always wanted to drive a JCB. It’s the ultimate boys’ toy. But with my symptoms I didn’t know whether I’d be able to get into one.
“I went with a group of ten family and friends and we had a fantastic day. They treated us like royalty. It was fascinating looking round the factory and learning about JCB, then I got to ride in the tractor straight off the production line up to the quarry where they test their machinery. I loved it.”
The tractor, a Fastrac 8300, got up to its full speed of 45 miles per hour on the way to the demonstration site then tackled off-road tracks, steep slopes and a gravel bed.
Clair Marshall, Young Adults Keyworker at Nottinghamshire Hospice, who arranged the trip for Sam after hearing about his bucket list, said: “Here at the hospice we are all about helping patients identify what they want to do and realise those ambitions if at all possible. We’re so glad we were able to facilitate this experience for Sam and we’re very grateful to JCB for making it happen.”
JCB spokesman Nigel Chell said: “It was a pleasure to host Sam, to show him around the factory and help him realise his dream of having a ride in a JCB machine.”
Sam was just 37 when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, a rare condition which causes progressive damage to the nervous system and muscle wasting. He first noticed something was wrong when he experienced weakness and shortness of breath while out cycling. A veteran of 40 triathlons, Sam was extremely fit so this was out of character.
“I was out on my bike, going up a hill when I first noticed a weakness in my lungs. My legs weren’t actually tired, but my lungs were,” Sam explained.
He also began to experience muscle spasms and other symptoms, particularly at night.
“I noticed shortness of breath when I went to lie down. It would take 30 seconds of quick breaths to feel normal. I had problems sleeping, vivid nightmares and headaches and couldn’t sleep for longer than an hour at a time,” he said.
Sam had various tests to look into his symptoms but it was not until three months later when admitted to hospital with pneumonia that he received his diagnosis. He was fitted with a ventilator which has helped with his breathing and sleep, and now uses a wheelchair.
After contacting Nottinghamshire Hospice, Sam started attending for massage treatments to help manage his symptoms and for counselling, which is helping him come to terms with his diagnosis and make the most of the time he has left.
Sam said: “It’s very unexpected to be in this position. I thought I’d have another 30 or 40 years and before my diagnosis never thought about hospice care. There are lots of things about sudden illness at my time of life that counselling is helping me deal with.
“I want to do things I enjoy as often as possible. I love the hospice tagline “Adding life to days” because it really is about adding life to days and making the most of those enjoyable moments.”
Sam is now planning to set up his own charitable trust to raise funds for Nottinghamshire Hospice and the MND Association. He is hoping to persuade friends and family members to sign up for the East Leake triathlon next spring – which is where Sam completed his first ever triathlon.
For more information visit Nottinghamshire Hospice