Ian Flatt was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2019 - the same year as Rob Burrow. They are under the care of the same dedicated team at Seacroft Hospital, where the MND centre is currently based.

I met my wife Rachael in the late 1990s when I was staying for work at a hotel in Milton Keynes. Rachael managed reception. She said it was love at first sight. We used to always chat after her shifts finished, always laughing and built a great bond. Every time I asked her to come out for dinner with me, she refused as I was a "resident", anyway one day I checked out, found another hotel locally and came back to ask her out. The rest is history. We were married in 2002 and our daughters, Charlotte and Iseabail came along.

In the girls’ early years, I was away for long periods of time and lead a number of critical engineering projects for clients such as the United States Forces and major institutions in the City of London. We very fortunately had an opportunity in 2005 to move to South Devon and take a step back. After six years of bliss living the beach life and teaching the girls to surf, we moved back to Yorkshire and set up our business management consultancy working in the energy sector.

My symptoms started in late 2017 with spasms and a weakening of grip in my hands.

This escalated through 2018 where I’d find myself taking naps in the car on the way to or back from the office, which was incredibly unusual as for years I felt I had enough energy and stamina to take on the world; we now know that this was caused by the respiratory compromise.

The fatigue got worse and by autumn 2018, I had to give up work. I had always been fit. When I was younger, I played a lot of sport, and during later years I was still very active regularly enjoying hill walking, kayaking and golf. I went from being able to do the Three Peaks for a bit of fun to not being able to walk up the hill to our house in a very short space of time.

Like most of us with MND it took over a year to rule out everything else, by late 2018 I’d researched my symptoms and had a suspicion it was either MS or MND. My diagnosis was confirmed in March 2019.

From that point, I started to make plans for my family. I became quite practical in that sense.

We also began to really focus on quality time together. Rachael also had to stop working in June 2019 to begin caring for me.

Like so many of us, my independence is incredibly important and I am so fortunate to have Rachael and the girls who help enable me to achieve so much and support all of my daft ideas, including climbing the odd mountain or two! I’m so very proud of my daughters and my wife.

In November 2021 I completed a 100-mile trek over the North Yorkshire Moors in my off-road wheelchair, known as "The Tangerine Dream Machine".

We navigated through driving rain and cold, and were often challenged by some very tricky terrain which the TDM managed to overcome. The previous summer, I completed another 100-mile trek which raised nearly £23,000 for charity. Then after that, much to Rachael’s joy, we scaled Snowdon on May 4 this year - it was an incredible day, made possible because of beautiful friendships and wonderful support. 

The 3,200ft climb and nine-mile trek involved complex planning with the Rangers, National Park Authority in Snowdonia and detailed descriptions of the obstacles provided by my friends. We fabricated lightweight ramps to lift my chair over the bigger obstacles and also a lightweight trailer to carry spare batteries. We were supported in the run up to the day and actually on the climb by members of Leeds Hospitals Charity and by the wonderful Leeds MND Team who also climbed with us.

With these challenges, I’ve been so moved by how many of my friends – and strangers too - have supported me in some way or another. I think we all go through trying times. One of my friends said; "We all face our mountains Ian, it’s just so much easier doing it together".

My motivation is to raise funds for the new Rob Burrow Centre for MND. Whilst I’m incredibly lucky to have a strong network of friends, family and supporters, there will be people diagnosed with MND who are on their own, or who feel on their own.

This new centre will be vital to all of us now and in the future.

It will pull together all of the specialist services required by MND sufferers in a dignified space. A centre which provides respite, research, resources and overall, a sense of hope for the MND community, and for the exceptional and extraordinary people who look after us.

It’s thanks to the critical help, compassion, expertise and kindness provided by the specialist MND Team in Leeds, my family and I have maintained our sense of fun, and our wonderful ability to laugh with each other. Whilst my mobility, dexterity and respiratory functions are failing, my sense of adventure remains intact.

Photo credit: Lorne Campbell, Guzelian Media 

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