Wigan to Disney trek in memory of Mark to raise awareness for killer condition

A grieving Wigan widow has come up with a unique way to remember her “Disney-mad” husband.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 9:23 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 9:57 am

Natalie Leigh lost her 32-year-old partner Mark to an aortic aneurysm suddenly at home in September, just five days after going to hospital with chest pain.

And she wants the public to take part in a fitness feat in the coming weeks that will raise awareness (not money) of the condition - a tear in the body’s main blood vessel - that claimed her partner’s life.

And the distance she wants everyone to have cumulatively run, walked, cycled, swam or travelled by other non-motoring means is the mileage between Wigan and Disneyland in Florida.

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Natalie and Mark Leigh at Disney

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Mark, who lived with Natalie in Pemberton, was also born with HSP - Hereditary spastic paraplegia - which left him confined to a wheelchair.

Despite this, Mark was incredibly active, gym training five times a week, then boxing and wrestling after a long day at work as a divisional director of urgent care at Stepping Hill Hospital.

To honour her husband, Natalie decided to set up Mark’s Month of Moving to help raise awareness for aortic aneurysms.

Natalie with family and friends on a walk around DW Stadium for Mark's Month of Moving

Natalie said: “He was an incredible man, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was the least disabled, disabled person you would ever meet. If you met him and saw him, you can see he was in a wheelchair but other than that you would never have known.

“He also was incredibly caring and a massive Disney fan. He dedicated over 10 years to changing lives within Wigan and across a range of hospitals in the North West.

“Throughout his various jobs, everyone looked up to him. It was known that Mark was always at the forefront of change and if he said something was happening, he made sure it would happen.”

After Mark went to hospital for his chest pains, he was sent home with painkillers with doctors saying it was probably something muscular. Natalie said: “The day he died, Mark actually felt better. He rang me to say he’d got up and put some washing on and asked could we go to Asda later on.

Natalie and Mark

“I came home from work and he said he felt unwell and went for a lie down. 45 minutes later I was doing CPR on him.”

Aortic aneurysms are a detectable killer. Some 2,000 people lose their lives every year from a dissection of the aorta, which is what Mark suffered. When diagnosed and treated on time it has a better than 80 per cent survival rate.

However, 33 per cent of people are misdiagnosed, meaning 10 lives could be saved each week if patients were diagnosed correctly.

They are often diagnosed by bilateral blood pressure, however this simple test is only done on people over the age of 65, something that Natalie wants to change.

She said: “I know someone who is a nurse and one day they just decided to do this test which ended up saving someone’s life.”

In order to raise this awareness, Natalie and various others will hope to complete 4,208 miles - the equivalent of getting from Wigan to Disneyland Florida - receiving over 200 people signing up, racking up 600 miles in three days.

To do this, they need to complete 140 miles each day.

The challenge is due to end on January 30 - what would have been Mark’s 33rd birthday.

Natalie added: “It only felt right for us to have Disney as our end goal.

“His birthday will be a difficult time for me, so to have this challenge and everyone around me will really help.

“There’s no fund-raising involved, it’s free to join up. We simply just want to help people understand about aortic aneurysms and the benefits of bilateral blood pressure.

“You can do any form of exercise, it doesn’t have to be just walking or running.

“Someone is actually doing paddleboarding as their exercise. There is nothing that is going to bring my amazing husband back. No ‘would, could or should have’ is going to turn back time.

“The one thing that can change is tomorrow. So join me on my journey to raise awareness of this detectable killer and stop any more family and friends having to go through this nightmare.”

To find out more about the challenge and to sign up visit hereThanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here