Gary Campion (39) is worried he could be left permanently disabled if he doesn’t get vital surgery on his ankle soon.
ut as theatres remain closed to all but lifesaving operations, he fears time is not on his side and took the drastic step of setting up a Go Fund Me appeal.
Gary, who is originally from Omagh but now lives in Belfast, has raised over £90,000 for local charities over the years, which is why friends and family urged him to ask for help now that he is in need.
“This is not the position that I ever wanted to find myself in,” he says.
“I have no idea when theatres will open to capacity again.
“It has taken a lot of pride swallowing and encouragement from numerous friends and family, but I have to accept that my only hope to get the surgery now is that family, friends and the general public show kindness and help me financially.”
Gary was horse riding in 2014 when he was involved in an accident that led to his foot being crushed.
Before that he worked in public relations and was known for his lavish charity balls which celebrity guests flew in to attend.
He explained how his life changed in a flash.
“I was out riding on a Sunday afternoon with an instructor on a very secluded road in Co Down,” he says.
“A cyclist passed us and spooked my instructor’s horse that reared and up, and my horse took a few sidesteps and we both fell down a 10-foot bank.
“As the horse went to get up I tried to pull myself out of the way.
“But he stood on my right leg and damaged my heel bone and ankle joint.”
This left him with multiple fractures in his right foot which never healed properly, and he now has to walk with crutches and wear an inflatable air boot to prevent further damage.
The accident also left him with neurological condition myalgic encephalomyelitis and an overactive bladder.
Gary had been due to get surgery last year, but it was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Now virtually housebound and dependent on others, he has had to leave his job in PR and work part-time from home as a civil servant.
As the quality of his life deteriorates, he fears without surgery he will be left permanently disabled, which is why he has launched his appeal.
He says: “In March 2019 they gave me injections and a brace and told me I was on the waiting list for surgery, but it could be 12-18 months, which would have been June last year.
“I saw my consultant again three weeks ago and he said my condition had further deteriorated, but because theatres are closed to all but life-threatening conditions, he said he had no idea when I might get my operation. He even suggested if I could afford to go privately, I should.
“If someone had said to me seven years ago when I had my accident I would have to pay privately to get surgery on my ankle, I would have been in a position to do so.
“However, as I have had many periods where I have been unable to work now, I simply do not have the means to have this as an option.
“It’s like we have a two-tiered health system now; if you’ve money you’re OK, and if you don’t you can expect to struggle and be in agony.
“I am only 39, and if I don’t get this operation soon I am going to be permanently housebound.”
Gary needs to raise up to £20,000 to cover costs of surgery and rehabilitation.
He adds: “I’m asking people I don’t know to help me, which is humiliating, to be honest. If I am lucky enough to get support any money left over will go to another patient to enable them to access their required medical intervention.”
You can support Gary at www.gofundme.com/f/help-me-walk-pain-free-and-unaided