06 December 2018, The Tablet

Fr Tony Coote's remarkable wheelchair journey through Ireland for charity

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Fr Tony Coote's remarkable wheelchair journey through Ireland for charity

MND sufferer Fr Tony Coote in his wheelchair on the road to Co. Cork
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Led by a courageous priest from Dublin, walkers have trodden the highways and byways from Donegal to Cork to raise funds for and awareness of Motor Neurone Disease

Last summer, a 54-year-old Dublin parish priest led a band of walkers as they journeyed the length of Ireland, covering some 340 miles from Co. Donegal in the north to Co. Cork in the south. Nothing unusual in that, as many priests often undertake walks for a good cause. But the charismatic priest leading the “Walk While You Can” pilgrimage is dying. Fr Tony Coote suffers from Motor Neurone Disease, an incurable neurological condition that progressively robs sufferers of their physical faculties, and he was being pushed in a wheelchair from Letterkenny to Ballydehob by family members, friends, parishioners and supporters.

According to Professor Orla Hardiman, the neurologist treating Fr Coote, MND “is probably one of the most devastating diseases that can afflict people – it is a condition that occurs without warning – often in mid-life, when people are at the peak of their powers.”

Part of what is driving Fr Coote to undertake this extraordinary journey in spite of his terminal diagnosis is the lack of adequate funding from the Irish state for MND sufferers. There are just three dedicated nurses looking after up to 400 sufferers in Ireland, and they are funded entirely by charitable donations.

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