My Fundraising Journey

On 30th May 2018, I made the decision to fly to Australia and have my second leg amputated in the hope to make my life pain free. The surgery was called Osseointergration and was not available on the NHS; this meant that I had to fundraise £60,000. The surgery involves hollowing out my bone, inserting a metal implant into it, which would then act as a permanent prosthesis. 

Before the surgery I was dealing with constant pain. Both my legs were severely damaged at birth as a result of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion with my identical twin brother Tom. I had blood clots in both my legs, which meant that unfortunately, I had to have my left leg amputated below the knee at 18 months. My right leg was also severely damaged with no fat or muscle tissue and no main artery. I had corrective surgery on my toes three times and struggled to walk on hard surfaces without shoes on, even with shoes it was a struggle. I made the decision to have amputation as I thought Osseointergration would be the best solution for me. 

I knew, at the age of 19, I had a massive challenge on my hands to raise the amount of money I needed. My family and I put our heads together to come up with as many ideas as we could to raise the money. I started off my sharing my story to everyone on my social media with the link to my Justgiving Page. This was something that I found incredibly difficult as it went into a lot of detail of what I had to go through in my life; something that only a very few amount of people knew. However, I knew in order to raise this money, I had to put myself out there and let people know my story. 

This worked incredibly well, within the first 5 days; I had raised £5,000 through my JustGiving Page – something I never thought was possible. I then started to expand my search for donations. I spent the weekend bag packing in Tesco with 7 of my close friends; something that I thought would bring in about £500. Everybody we spoke to was so unbelievably generous and were captivated by my story – we raised a total amount of £2,000 over the one weekend, which I thought wasn’t even possible. It was such a heart-warming feeling knowing that there were so many people out there wanting to help me start my best life. 

Although this was a huge amount of money, we needed to think big about how to raise more. My family and I came up with the idea to have a ‘fun day’ with my local community, which involved having live music, a BBQ, auction raffle and things for the kids.  I needed to raise awareness for this event as it was going to be one of the main things that brought in donations. Around June I went to as many of my local schools (8 in total), including the ones I grew up in. I told them my story, my journey and how you should always have a positive mind-set as it will allow you to do anything you want to in life. I spoke to them about my fundraising and how we were having a fun day in September. It was such a special experience as I was able to help inspire the younger generation from first hand experience; especially being the school to I went to whilst growing up. 

We had the big day on 16th September and despite the awful weather, I still managed to raise an incredible £12,000. The generosity of everybody was overwhelming to say the least. We all had a great day, the spirits were high and we absolutely made the most of it. Although, the feeling was very bitter sweet in a way because although each donation meant that I was closer to living a pain free life, it also meant that it was coming closer to the time where I was going to have to say goodbye to my leg. I know that it had caused me pain throughout a lot of my life, it was still part of me and was very difficult to let that go. The realisation hit that soon I was never going to be able to feel the ground again, wiggle my toes or just touch that part of my leg again. 

However, I’ve been taught to always think positively and knew that it was the right decision and that I would be able to overcome any challenge put in front of me. My fundraising journey lasted for 14 months and in that time, through social media, events I had put on and the sheer generosity of the public; I managed to raise £53,000. 10% of which, I decided to donate to Great Ormond Street Hospital as I would not have been here today with out them and I want to be able to do the same for someone else. 

Nearly 2 years later, post surgery, I am walking pain free and a new height of 6ft (6” taller) and am able to do things that I have never been able to do with my head held high. 

James Bertrand