Press Release: Couple swim length of English Channel at home for the ME Association | 20 May 2020

May 20, 2020

Tony Britton, Fundraising and PR Manager, ME Association.

The following press release formed the basis of a story that was carried on the website on 16 May 2020. BBC Somerset also covered the story on Monday morning (9-minute chat starts at 1:47).

A north Somerset couple have been swimming the length of the English Channel at home to help save a charity that supports their daughter, who became sick while at university and never got better.

Dawn and Graham Brown from Burnham-on-Sea open their home, Tillington House, as a Christian retreat. They are swimming 2,834 lengths of the pool as their lockdown exercise. They are now over halfway to France! 

Charlotte Brown with her parents, Dawn and Graham.

Their daughter Charlotte went down with glandular fever while at university.

It graduated into the devastating, energy-sapping condition, M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis) which so far she has been unable to shake off.

They aim to finish the distance in the next few days during ME Awareness Month and are raising funds for the ME Association.

The ME Association is just one of thousands of UK charities who saw their income take a plunge when hundreds of mass participation charity events were cancelled earlier in the year because of the coronavirus.

Charlotte (25), who lives with her parents, struggled to complete her course in performing arts at the University of Bedford after going down with glandular fever in her first year.

Very keen to complete the degree, she got her diagnosis of M.E. in her third year but still left college triumphant with a first-class degree.

However, she’s been unable to do anything with her degree since then:

“I finished my dissertation at 11pm that night, printed it off and burst into tears of relief! I’d finally got there, that was such a big thing for me.

“When I moved back home to my parents at the end of term, I crashed out because I was so sick, and was hardly able to leave the house for six months,” said Charlotte.

Nowadays she enjoys working short shifts in local shops to earn her keep and, although currently on furlough, is looking forward to getting back to work. She enjoys singing with the Rock Choir on Zoom.

Dawn and Graham Brown ready to take the plunge!

Her mother, who was ordained as a Baptist Minister 20 years ago, commented:

“We have this lovely blue swimming pool at Tillington House, and we wondered how we could use it through May to raise awareness and funds for the ME Association #GoBlue4ME appeal.

“Compared to swimming the Channel for real, our pool is heated and indoors – so we don’t expect a great deal of sympathy from others for the effort we’re putting in!”

Charlotte is among 265,000 Britons living with the incurable illness M.E., also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

M.E. is a disease that can dramatically impact a person’s ability to function and is often triggered by an infection from which people never seem to recover.  

It doesn’t discriminate, affects all ages and ethnicities and there is as yet no effective treatment.

One in four people are so severely affected that they become housebound or bedbound.

Neil Riley, Chairman, ME Association.

Fears are growing that people recovering from the coronavirus may go on to develop M.E. Early reports indicate that this is a distinct possibility.

The charity’s chairman, Neil Riley, commented:

“We are delighted that Dawn and Graham have taken on this challenge to help secure our future.

“But there could be a new wave of M.E. coming down everybody’s street in the wake of the pandemic.

“The ME Association needs to survive in order be able to help another generation of sufferers manage the condition as best they can and fund research into effective treatments and a cure.”

 It is Mental Health Awareness Week and Charlotte Brown would also like you to know about the work of the north Somerset charity, In Charley's Memory.  

“I'm in a good place at the moment and it's partly due to them. They offer very affordable therapy”, she said.

In Charley's Memory are temporarily closed at the moment because of the pandemic but, if you live in Somerset, this is one recommendation worth remembering once the lockdown is over. 

ME Awareness Month – May 2020

Read the stories and announcements from ME Awareness Month.

The Lost Years

Check out the MEA Media Toolkit for video, free factsheets, posters and graphics.

The ME Association

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