Gillian’s ready to take the skies again for most daring challenge yet

Mum-of-three Gillian McNab, who has incurable Huntington’s disease, is about to tick off the most daring challenge on her bucket list so far.

After conquering every rollercoaster in the UK, braving firewalks and skydiving from 10,000 feet, the 51-year-old hospice nurse from Lanark is taking to the skies again – this time to do a double wing walk complete with an adrenalin-fueled nose-dive from 500ft and a loop the loop at 6000ft.

Gillian is dedicating her high-flying fundraiser in aid of Scottish Huntington’s Association and Strathcarron Hospice to her late mother Myra, who passed away in 2001. Myra died from an underlying heart condition, however two years before she had also been diagnosed as being in advanced stages of Huntington’s disease. Until that diagnosis, Gillian knew nothing about the disease or that there was a chance she could have it too.

Huntington’s is caused by a faulty gene that damages the brain and causes severe physical and mental symptoms. These include a decline in movement control which affects mobility, balance and coordination. For many people, it leads to the loss of ability to walk, talk, eat and swallow.

Thinking processes are damaged, impairing ability to process information, make decisions, solve problems, plan and organise, while associated mental illness includes depression, apathy, anxiety, obsessive compulsions and, for some people, psychosis.

The devastating toll on families is compounded further by the reality that each child of someone with Huntington’s is at 50% risk of inheriting it too.

When Gillian’s test came back positive for Huntington’s, she made a decision then and there to live life to the full. For as long as she remains symptom free, the busy working mum is making her way through a bucket list of adventures while helping other families as a volunteer fundraiser and speaker for Scottish Huntington’s Association (SHA).

Her volunteering led to a surprise Zoom call last month with well-known actor George Rainsford (Casualty). He plays Dr Ethan Hardy in the hospital drama’s ongoing Huntington’s disease storyline and is Patron of Huntington’s Disease Association (England and Wales).

The actor was taking time out to meet families impacted by Huntington’s disease from across the UK and Ireland in support of an awareness-raising campaign led by four Huntington’s charities, including Scottish Huntington’s Association.

Gillian said:

“It was amazing to chat to George and thank him for helping to raise the profile of Huntington’s and the families it affects. I don’t watch much TV but I’m a Casualty and Holby City super fan, and George is fantastic because he’s so interested in what families are going through.

“I told him that having Huntington’s makes me more likely to seize the day and do things I might not have otherwise – like a wing walk! I loved skydiving and I’m sure this will be even better. My friends, family and work colleagues are really supportive and generous with their donations, which will be shared equally between Scottish Huntington’s Association and Strathcarron Hospice in Falkirk.

“Both organisations mean a great deal to me and I see first-hand how the pandemic has affected their fundraising. Scottish Huntington’s Association is a lifeline, not just for people who have Huntington’s but for their family and carers too. It’s the only charity in Scotland dedicated exclusively to supporting the Huntington’s community.

“I’ve worked at Strathcarron Hospice for the past nine years. It’s a unique and special place which supports patients and their families not only to die well, but to live well and make every moment count.”

Gillian will travel to an airstrip in Yorkshire for her wing walk on Saturday, 3 July. It involves standing on the wing of an airborne 1940's Boeing Stearman Biplane while its pilot carries out high octane flypasts and manoeuvres.

To find out more about Huntington’s disease and ways to support the work of Scottish Huntington’s Association, please visit

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