The family of a Scots dad diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease is determined to help him achieve his dream of flying a helicopter.
William Brunton, 49, from Dunbar, was diagnosed with MND in July 2021 after suffering a bad fall at his home.
He is now in the advanced stages of MND and is receiving palliative care at Belhaven Hospital, Dunbar.
His heartbroken family are trying to help him realise a lifelong ambition to take flight in a helicopter in the time he has left – and are using innovative ways to make it happen.
William’s cousin Karen Lorimer, 56, was left disappointed after discovering it would be impossible to fly William in a real helicopter due to the fact he was in a wheelchair – but she soon discovered the world of virtual reality (VR).
She told the Daily Record: “William always wanted to go in a helicopter, in fact, he wanted to fly one and even buy one.
“It was always in me and the family’s mind.
“I did think earlier on in his process about it but everything I read suggested he wouldn’t be able to get on the helicopter in a wheelchair for safety reasons.
“When he’s in the hospital, he’s just lying in bed and he’s a young man staring at four walls.
“I got thinking about how I could get him in a helicopter and remember watching on the news that people with dementia had been able to use VR technology to take them back to where they used to live.
“So, I thought maybe we can transport William, as near as we can, into this wonderful experience.”
William has been battling MND – which has no cure and affects the brain and nerves – since he was diagnosed in July 2021.
The dad-of-two spent three months in Edinburgh’s Astley Ainslie Hospital but returned home in October 2021.
His family and friends, with the assistance of carers, rallied around to ensure he could remain there for as long as possible.
However as his condition deteriorated, William was moved to a more accessible home before being forced to go back into hospital days before Christmas.
After that blow, Karen got to work on providing the amazing helicopter experience and decided to launch a fundraiser to buy William the VR headset.
Over £2,500 was raised in just six days, with William requesting that additional funds are donated to the MND Scotland charity.
The family purchased the headset and, after getting the go-ahead from his nurse, William was able to try out the headset for the first time on Tuesday night.
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Karen said: “We have just been desperately trying to think of ways to give William, who doesn’t have much time, some respite.
“We were a bit concerned he wouldn’t enjoy the experience but he looked at me and said ‘I like it’, which made us feel just so good.”
William was able to experience swimming and walking on the device on his first try.
But Karen says they are now focused on finding a VR experience that will allow him to achieve his dream of flying a helicopter.
She said: “It will be a slow process for us and him figuring out how to use it but I will get him on that helicopter ride.
“We just can’t believe people have been so kind with donations, we got way over the target. William is obviously very loved.”
Karen hopes more people with debilitating conditions will get the chance to use virtual reality as a form of therapy in the future with the money they donate.
You can donate to William’s fundraiser here.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Claire Galloway)