Remembering Gordon Aikman

Friday 3 February was a rollercoaster of a day.

It began with the tragic news that political campaigner and motor neurone disease activist Gordon Aikman had died aged just 31. Gordon was 29 and working in the Scottish political world when he was diagnosed with MND. His diagnosis led him to become one of Scotland’s highest achieving charity campaigners and fundraisers.

He formed Gordon’s Fightback Campaign, successfully lobbying the First Minister to double the number of MND nurses in Scotland and to fund them through the NHS. He also raised more than £500,000 for MND research to help find a cure.  Always generous with his time and expertise, he paid a visit to Leuchie to give us his advice on opening up Leuchie House to young people.

He was a truly inspiring man who will be missed by so many.  His words about coming to terms with his death sentence are pertinent to us all: “My outlook and priorities have changed. I spend more time with friends and family than ever before. I live in the moment. I don’t put things off. Every day I am reminded life is short.”

Ironically, I learned about Gordon’s death while at an excellent Edinburgh Airport event which he was meant to have attended.

The event, about flying with a disability, highlighted the support for air travel now available to people with reduced mobility. In a highly practical session, we were taken through the process from booking a flight, to arrival at the airport, to boarding the aircraft and being in the cabin.

If you have a disability or live with someone who does, you may have assumed that flying isn’t an option for you. I’d urge you to get in touch with the special assistance team at Edinburgh Airport. With some advance planning and access to the support on offer, your options may be greater than you think.

Having worked at Edinburgh Airport for many years in my life before Leuchie, I was thrilled to see the progress that’s been made to improve travelling with a disability. Something Gordon would have greatly approved of.

Mairi O'Keefe, Chief Executive, Leuchie House. Published in The East Lothian Courier, 16 February 2017.