This Sunday,equestrian sportswoman, Caroline Bjoerk, will begin, ‘Walking for those who can’t”, a 330km cross-Ireland walk from Clifden in Galway to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin to raise €50,000 for Beaumont Hospital Foundation to fund Spinal Degeneration Research.
Caroline has competed in dressage and eventing since an early age and has represented Ireland several times at international level. In the course of her career she has had many falls and injuries. However, seven years ago, a rotational fall in which she was thrown forward from her horse, left her with persistent back pain. After time, she became unable to ride anymore or to go about her normal daily life.
Following surgeries performed by consultant neurosurgeon, Prof Ciaran Bolger, Caroline’s injury improved greatly and she began to walk as part of her ongoing rehabilitation. She realised that she was lucky. Although her pain had been relieved, she realised there must be countless people who are dealing with back pain on a daily basis – whether through injury or because they have degenerative conditions.
She decided to undertake a challenge that would both raise awareness of how real and debilitating back pain can be and generate income for Prof Bolger’s Spinal Degeneration Research at Beaumont Hospital.
Her 330km walk begins from the Alcock and Browne memorial outside Clifden. Caroline has chosen the landmark as her starting point in memory of her father who was an RAF pilot. Each day she will walk an average of 27km and the total journey will take her twelve days to fourteen days to complete.
Caroline says, “You don’t have to be a sportsperson to suffer the dreadful affects of sustained back pain. Injury to the spine can happen so easily, as a result of bad posture, an accident or as a result of other degenerative conditions. But anyone with back pain will tell you how it limits your ability to undertake even the simplest of tasks and this can undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem”.
Consultant Neurosurgeon, Prof Ciaran Bolger, is one of the countries’ leading neurosurgeons and head of the Neurosurgical Research Unit in Beaumont Hospital. He has conducted world renowned research which has resulted in the implementation of many improvements in spinal surgery techniques.
Caroline has raised over €16,000 to date, largely through a fundraising evening held in her home, Dollanstown House in Kilcock, at which celebrated uilleann piper, Liam O’Flynn, perfomed. She has been receiving wonderful support from local suppliers and businesses and is actively driving donation through her website for the walk – www.walkingforthosewhocant.com
Speaking about the journey she will make, she says, “I want to encourage as many people as possible to come out and join me for whatever distance they can manage – a few hundred yards, a couple of kilometres or a complete leg of the walk. My route is listed on the website for those who can join in, but if you can’t, making a donation would be equally good as every euro pledged will help me to get up each morning and face the road again!”
Caroline is encouraging people to organise their own walking events to raise funds. “You don’t have to live along the route to show your support for funding spinal research. If you would like to support my fundraising effort to raise €50,000 for Beaumont Hospital, contact BHF on 01 – 809 2161 and they can supply you with sponsorship cards and t-shirts in support of your own ‘Walking for those who can’t’, event, she concluded.