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Alex took on our Jog 30 Miles in June challenge for his friend Luke.
“I had known Luke O’Donnell (or Luke-O as I liked to call him) as a work colleague for 4 years at BT. He had joined not long after I did, and we struck up a good bond through our similar senses of humour. We also met socially on numerous occasions, including a fellow colleague’s stag do.
I had an inkling about what Luke had done on behalf of the epilepsy community. The odd Facebook post here and there, with a photo of some sensor cables attached to his head. But at his funeral, I learned what an impact he’d made. In 2018, his benefits were unfairly sanctioned after he missed an interview. At the time, Luke was in fact recovering in hospital after multiple seizures. His story made a national newspaper and he talked to BBC Look North about what had happened. He called out the ‘cold hearted’ system and even gave evidence to the House of Commons select committee. A few weeks later, because of Luke’s campaigning, the DWP decided to reverse their decision.
Luke felt very strongly about his epilepsy. He’d been diagnosed when he was 21, and I could only imagine the struggle both physically and mentally of living with it. He would often highlight the impact a seizure would have on his work. His job could only allow him so much time off, and he dealt with both physical and mental stress trying to live his life within the “acceptable amount” of seizures. Listening to him, I considered myself lucky that my body hasn’t failed me, and I’ve been able to attend every single one of my shifts. While he may have sometimes been at odds with managers about his punctuality, they respected Luke for standing up and getting his point of view across, opening up that dialogue.
I normally don’t take part in charity fundraisers. But when Luke passed away in April, I was in shock. One day he was with us, “putting the world to rights” as he would often say, the next day he wasn’t. He was only a young man with his whole life ahead of him. Luke has inspired me to be more physically active and take part in something bigger than myself. I feel compelled to take on this challenge as a continuation of his life and legacy. His memorial webpage has already raised over £700 for Epilepsy Action. I left a comment on there and at his funeral, I was honoured that the priest read it out:
“I wonder sometimes how many more accomplishments you’ve achieved in your young life. But the one accomplishment that matters most was that you were loved dearly by your family, friends, and colleagues. Rest in Paradise, my dude.”
You can donate to Alex’s fundraiser via his Facebook fundraising page.