It’s been a tough year for so many people, not least former Ireland wicketkeeper Andy Patterson. Richard Spiller highlights the challenge before him.
Good news has been in short supply in 2020 – and that’s particularly the case for Andy Patterson.
At the age of 45, he is coming to terms with having to use a wheelchair, a cruel prospect for anyone, never mind someone who was a professional cricketer and then taught PE and sport.
Wicketkeeper Patterson – from Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland – made 61 appearances for Ireland between 1996 and 2002.
With older brother Mark on the Surrey staff, Andy joined him in the county’s second team for 23 games in 1997-98, the pair playing for Banstead in the Surrey Championship.
Although there were no openings for him at The Oval, he attracted interest from Susssex, playing 10 first-class games in 2000. There was a spell with Bedfordshire before he began a teaching career with Kings’s College School in Wimbledon, heading on to Caterham School.
But in 2013 Patterson began to have problems with his balance and received the stunning diagnosis that he was suffering from hereditary spastic paraplegia, which progressively weakens and stiffens the legs.
A zimmer frame currently helps him get about but he will soon be in a wheelchair. The urgency to equip the home he shares with his wife Emma and three children in Tadworth became all the greater but costs of £200,000 would be enough to stretch any family.
Step forward a friend, Darren Kokott, who told Patterson he was going to raise funds and set a target of £25,000 to bridge the gap which meant work could start.
“I thought it would be great if it got a few hundred or maybe £1000,” said Andy.
Instead he has been delighted and amazed that the fund is on the verge of doubling that target – and relieved too.
“The speed at which things accelerated meant we had to go ahead with work on the house, putting a lift in and an ensuite bathroom, which involved taking some of the roof off, and this has made it possible without worrying so much how we were going to pay for it.
“That so many people have helped out is really humbling and it’s been lovely the way so many people I’ve met – and some I’ve not seen for many years – have come forward. It’s so humbling and I can’t thank them enough.”
Former Surrey and England manager Micky Stewart has been among those who have contacted Patterson to offer help and advice and he says Caterham School has been a staunch ally: “Obviously I can’t do the things I used to do but they have changed my job to suit my circumstances. It’s things like being given an office which is right next to where I park which make such a difference.”
This Sunday (November 8) sees the next stage of fundraising with a virtual run/cycle/swim around Ireland using the Strava App.
Members of Surrey who are keen to do their essential lockdown exercise and help out can download Strava and join “Patto’s Exercise Soc” or check out the fundraising page at https://uk.gofundme.com/f/help-father-of-three-stay-mobile.