On Friday 18 March, a young man from Glasgow received the surprise of a lifetime thanks to the Muscle Help Foundation, the RAF Benevolent Fund, and The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice.
Twenty-year-old Amandeep has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the most severe type of muscular dystrophy. As a lifelong lover of the RAF and aviation, Amandeep dreamed of becoming a pilot and was devastated that DMD thwarted his ambitions.
To help fulfil his wish, Dr Sheonad Laidlaw, Specialty Doctor for the Transition & Young Adults Service at The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice, nominated Amandeep for the Muscle Help Foundation’s Muscle Dreams programme. The charity reached out to the RAF Benevolent Fund who nominated supporter Mike Ling, the Red Arrow’s longest standing pilot and current Blades pilot.
Amandeep got to virtually experience the life of a pilot by meeting Mike over Zoom and hearing about his 10-year career with the Reds. During the session, Amandeep was also presented with a gift box including his own set of wings, generously donated by Gavin Davey, Area Director for Scotland at the RAF Benevolent Fund and former RAF helicopter pilot.
Amandeep said: “What an amazing experience. It was a privilege to meet everyone and receive the wings. Thank you to everyone for organising this surprise.”
Mike Ling is no stranger to charity, having been supported by the RAF Benevolent Fund following a mid-air collision with another Red Arrow jet in 2010. He spent weeks in hospital, with injuries including badly damaged legs, arms, substantial burns, a dislocated shoulder, lacerations on his face and damaged lungs. The Fund provided a powered wheelchair which helped Mike regain some independence and allowed him to take care of himself again.
Mike Ling said: “I was truly delighted to meet Amendeep virtually and to talk to him about flying and the Red Arrows. Despite the restrictions placed on him by DMD, Amendeep is a very cheerful young man with a positive mindset and it was a real pleasure to speak to him as a huge fan of aviation. I'm grateful to the Muscle Help Foundation and the RAF Benevolent Fund for inviting me to be a part of Amendeep's Muscle Dream experience."
DMD is a muscle-wasting condition and usually affects only boys. At any one time, there are approximately 2,500 boys and young men known to be living with the condition in the UK. DMD causes progressive muscle weakness and means that those affected will lose their ability to walk and use a wheelchair to move around. DMD also causes significant heart and breathing problems and regular medical appointments are important to ensure early changes are promptly treated.
Dr Sheonad Laidlaw added: “The Young Adult Service at The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice has supported Amandeep for a number of years, but since the beginning of the pandemic Amandeep has shielded and this support has been needed more than ever. Sometimes this support is simply listening and talking as he was socially isolated; I learned more about his dreams and aspirations, and this included his childhood dream to be a RAF pilot. With his 21st birthday approaching I wanted to nominate Amandeep for a Muscle Dream as a celebration of all that he achieves daily and to remind him that there is a vast world outside his room waiting for him to explore.”
The Muscle Help Foundation’s goal is to deliver 657 Muscle Dreams – one life-changing experience for every muscle in the human body. Amandeep’s virtual Muscle Dream is the charity’s 425th intervention, leaving a further 232 to deliver.
Michael McGrath, founder and CEO of the Muscle Help Foundation, said: “When Amandeep’s Muscle Dream nomination arrived in the charity’s inbox just after Christmas last year, I was struck by two things – firstly, how the cruelty of his debilitating, life-limiting condition has robbed him of his dream of being an RAF pilot, and secondly, his passion and love of flying. Nominated by specialist palliative care GP Dr Sheonad Laidlaw, it became clear in our communications that to ‘earn his wings’ was a life goal.”