West Highland Wifies

Next week I will be transporting these amazing ladies down to Milnagavie to start the West Highland Way to raise money for wee Sam, please read his Aunty Nicola’s Blog.


Hiking boots; check. Waterproofs; check. Grit, determination and ability to laugh in the face of blisters; check. Bit optimistic, that last one, but well, I can hope.

My name is Nicola and I am proud to be one quarter of the West Highland Wifies. As the clock ticks down to us taking our first steps on our 96-mile journey I wanted to share my story; why I am doing it. For my nephew Sam.

Sam was born in Inverness in September 2014. Barely before his eyes had opened, when the heady excitement and all-engulfing love of welcoming a newborn into the world was still swirling in the air, he was whisked away from his mum and dad by men in medical coats.

The news was not good. It was quickly discovered that this tiny, snuggly bundle had been dealt the cruellest of life’s blows. No sugar-coating, bedside-manner soothing here. Sam’s brain had not fully developed while in the womb. There had been no warning, nothing picked up in numerous scans. A picture painted bleak.

In a split second all our lives had changed.

It still cuts me to the core to recall my sister Steph, Sam’s mum, asking me to ‘be brave’ for her as she told me the news, phoning from hospital, dazed and devastated. She and her husband Kris have been the very bravest, strongest people I know through everything that was to come.

The shock was like a sledgehammer right though the foundations of our family… one that we are all still feeling the reverberations of, every day. And our gorgeous flame-haired boy with the biggest green eyes and the sunbeam smile also has the unpredictable horribleness of epilepsy to contend with too.

Unless you have someone you love with additional support needs in your family you really cannot understand.

The questions; the worries; the fears; the hopes. The never-ending medical appointments. The milestones taken for granted by so many, re-adjustments of success, every tiny victory a major cause for celebration.

There has been no medical explanation for or proper diagnosis of Sam’s condition. Which makes it hard to plan, when you don’t know really what you are dealing with.

Life is a journey for us all; of course it is, that is the point, surely. But when you don’t know which way up your compass is pointing, where you can begin to look to the future, it can be a scary place.

Two years ago we began fundraising for Sam when we realised that there was help out there – a variety of specialist therapies that help his development, physically and cognitively.

But this amazing therapy is expensive and not available on the NHS.

We’ve been amazed since then at the generosity and kindness of our community who have fundraised to help Sam. So when Ali (founder WHW member) said it was on her bucket list to walk the West Highland Way, all 96 miles of it, I jumped at the chance to go with her. And soon we were a merry band of four, planning our six day walk from Milngavie to Fort William. We set off on April 5th – ONE WEEK TODAY! Apparently doing it then will give us the best chance of avoiding the hikers’ scourge – the dreaded WHW midge…

So when we set off on our journey next week, all during it, and especially at the end, I will be thinking of Sam – and how every step will help him. And whatever the weather throws at us, I’ll try not to grumble too much (I said try).

It is our dream that one day, Sam will be able to walk; to take his first steps unaided. And we have been so utterly overwhelmed by everyone’s support to help him get closer to that goal. We simply can’t thank people enough for what they have done, are doing, and have said they will do for our boy. And we are so, so proud of him for all that he is striving to achieve.

He’s continuing to prove the doctors wrong. When he was born, his parents were told that his optic nerves had not developed. He might not be able to see. Months later, following an agonising wait, tests found that he did indeed have his vision. It was an absolute blessing and an untold relief, and showed us that things can change, futures are not set in stone. There can be brighter days ahead.

Let’s hope the sun is shining on us along the West Highland Way as we are Stepping Up For Sam.

Here’s how you can help change his life too – Step Up for Sam