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Paula makes a splash for Huntington’s disease awareness

Novice open water swimmer Paula O’Hare dived in at the deep end to raise £2361 for a charity that supports families living with the degenerative neurological condition, Huntington’s disease (HD).

Teaming up with her brother Steven, Paula from Cumbernauld, completed the one mile course at the recent Great Scottish Swim on Loch Lomond with all donations going to the Scottish Huntington’s Association (SHA).

The SHA is the only charity in the country that supports HD families through a team of specialist nurses a dedicated youth support service and a financial wellbeing helpdesk.

HD is an incurable genetic brain disorder that usually starts between the ages of 35 and 45 years. It causes three main groups of symptoms: changes to thinking processes – a type of early onset dementia, loss of muscle control and involuntary movements which lead to loss of speech and swallow and mental illness. As it progress those affected will need 24 care. It is also hereditary with each child of those diagnosed at 50% risk developing the disease.

It is estimated there are around 1100 people living with HD in Scotland and about 5000 potentially at risk.

Paula has first hand experience of HD as her Gran has the condition, she has chosen not to be tested.

‘Due to the hereditary nature of HD it can be a bit of taboo subject in many families and it was only gradually that I, through my own research began to understand the condition that has so affected my Gran’s life. It’s only by getting it out of the shadows and into the open and discussing the implications it can have that we can create better understanding. That’s why I wanted to raise some funds for the great work the SHA does,’ she said.

‘This was the first time I’d done any open water swimming all my practise was done in pool but it was surprisingly comfortable in the water. I really like to thank everyone for their support and donations.’

Now in its fourth year at Loch Lomond shores, the event saw swimmers of all ages and abilities taking on a range of distances. Alongside the existing ½ mile, 1 mile, 2 mile and 5k courses, two new events were added to the programme for 2016.

Paula is trying to keep up the training and plans to do something similar for the charity next year.

‘Who knows I might even try for the longer distance swim next year,’ she added.

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Picture shows: An ecstatic Paula with her brother Steven at the finish line of the Great Scottish Swim.

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