Follow us on TwitterFacebookYouTube

“Say what you see” Edward’s Parish Walk Attempt

The Parish Walk has a long and proud history of individuals with inspirational stories, many of whom have raised significant money for good causes and who have triumphed in the face of serious adversity, but without doubt the remarkable Edward Kelly meets these three criteria with plenty of room to spare.

Edward has previously entered the Parish Walk on two occasions and he tells me and Jock Waddington all about it when we meet him and his Team Edward co-walker and friend, Lesley Patterson of Manx Sport and Recreation, over coffee to discuss a possible feature for the Parish Walk website.

Edward pictured in Rushen in 2002“I entered the Parish in 2002 when I was 20 years old just for a laugh as co-workers were doing it” Edward explains. “Some of the girls just wanted to chat and take it easy at the back, but my competitive instincts kicked in and I quickly decided I’d had enough of walking at the back and then burned myself out trying to get past everyone! I made it to Rushen (19.5 miles) within sight of the under 21 leaders and I would have gone to Peel and may have caught them, but my legs were spent by then!"

The plot thickens when you consider that on his second attempt at the event in 2005, he walked to Braddan (2 miles), despite having made it to Rushen just three years before. Confused? The intervening period between 2002 and 2005 holds the key and this is what makes Edward’s story so remarkable.

In October 2002, just three days after his 21st birthday, he suffered a brain stem stroke. The mere description of this obviously sounds extremely serious, but the full effect can only really be appreciated in a short extract of Edward’s own account written not long after the event:

I'd been getting headaches in the back of my head and dizzy spells on and off for a few months, but my GP thought it was a virus causing the symptoms. These symptoms may even be unrelated; perhaps we will never know.


One day I felt unwell and dizzy at work which resulted in me vomiting. I worked with my brother and so he took me home. I made it up the stairs, then into bed as I thought I'd sleep it off. I'm not sure how much time passed while I was in bed. I was experiencing a feeling of pins and needles or numbness in my left side, and I felt my voice disappearing (I remember I actually sounded like Yoda at one point!)

A couple of hours later (or so it seemed) my mum came to my house to see if I was ok and found me stiff as a board and shaking uncontrollably. After trying to give me mouth to mouth (yuk!), she called an ambulance but when it came, they had trouble getting me out of the room because I was so stiff and motionless.


I was soon in the Intensive Care Unit at Noble’s and they asked me lots of questions, such as whether I had taken drugs, but their first conclusion wasn't that I'd had a stroke. I could only use my eyes to blink yes or no, so communication at this point was slow and not easy. A lot of what happened to me in my time spent in Noble’s is a bit blurred. I must have been on morphine-based drugs as I had some strange dreams or visions, and I'm glad I lost my voice as I am sure I would have said some strange things (I thought I had a pig’s leg transplanted onto my body at one point!)!

One of the few pictures of Edward in hospital - taken on NYE 2002The doctors at Nobles soon decided that my case was so severe that a transfer to Walton Neuro Hospital was needed. Unfortunately there were gale force winds and floods at the time which meant I was unable to be transferred until the second day because of the weather. The transfer was in a small air ambulance and my mum accompanied me. When we arrived in Liverpool I kind of remember being admitted, but I was given sedation so they could scan my brain without me coughing or shaking too much (it was only at this point they were able to determine from the scans I’d had a stroke). Again, most of what happened next I missed because I was unconscious, but I remember waking up with a massive headache on intensive care. I'm not too sure if it was the anaesthetic or the fact I'd had the stroke.

When I became fully aware of my surroundings, I realised I had bad double vision and my head was permanently turned to the left side. I was very weak at this stage and could only move one finger and my head a little at first. While I was unconscious they had operated and performed a tracheostomy (a breathing tube inserted into the throat, by-passing my mouth and nose). At first all the breathing was done for me by a machine, but over the next 6 weeks spent in intensive care, I was slowly weaned onto doing it for myself. My lung had also collapsed, which they drained through a hole cut under my right armpit and I had developed pneumonia which resulted in constant coughing. I still wasn't able to communicate with my voice, but eventually an alphabet chart helped a lot, although I was too weak to point at the letters so we set up a system of blinking that worked”.

As a result of the stroke, in the 10 months spent in hospital, Edward effectively had to start from scratch in terms of learning to speak again, and learning to walk – initially just one or two steps at a time and with people either side of him, but then gradually down the hospital corridor and then latterly just by himself with only a stick for assistance. “One of the doctors thought my age probably saved me – it was over 2 days before I was diagnosed with having a stroke and they say the first few hours are critical in treating a stroke so I count myself very lucky to have survived”.

Edward’s Parish Walk journey so far and his plan for the 2019 Parish Walk

When Edward participated in the Parish Walk in 2005, he achieved his goal of making it 2 miles to Braddan Church, raising an incredible amount of money in the process for the Manx Stroke Foundation (almost £14,000 in fact!).

Braddan isn’t far enough this time” he tells me and Jock. “I'm not announcing an official target distance this time, but I can tell you that it's not in my nature to simply repeat what I achieved in 2005!

However, what I can tell you is that I will start at the NSC with all the other competitors and walk as far as I can then, as a bonus, the Parish Walk organising committee are also allowing me to cross the finish line on Douglas promenade around 10pm Saturday evening - note: the earliest anyone has crossed the line is about 10:40pm - I am really pleased that the race committee have agreed I can cross the finish line as it will be the icing on the cake of what will be an unforgettable day!"

As mentioned earlier, Edward will have a co-walker, Lesley Patterson of Manx Sport and Recreation, as part of Team Edward for support.

I met Lesley a few years ago through my physiotherapist, Janet Lawrenson, who recommended I try an outdoor biking scheme Manx Sport and Recreation run in the summer months. Although the biking wasn’t for me, she said to try a spinning class (several static exercise bikes surrounding a central coach who controls the pace and motivates participants) which back then had been for people suffering from neurological conditions such as, stroke, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.  It’s now called Social Spin and is open to everybody, whether or not they suffer from a condition. The static bikes are more fluid than pedalling a real bike and much easier to keep momentum going. It has really helped in strengthening my legs and my stamina has increased, especially since I started going to an additional, more intense, Glow Spin class as well!”

What about training for 2019 Parish Walk?

“My training plan, is very weather dependent as I’m not good in strong winds (think of Mary Poppins!), but when I can fit it in, I’m walking on the NSC track once or twice a week. Manx Telecom run a Parish Progression session on the track on Wednesday evenings for people wanting to train for the parish and I also go to this quite regularly.

Edward on the NSC track with 'Roy'If there’s other people on the track they naturally want to chat as it’s human nature to be inquisitive, especially as they can see walking is a lot of effort for me. I do like a chat though and I'm very open about my condition if anyone asks, however, walking takes a lot of concentration for me so I find it hard to walk and talk at the same time and this means my walking can be very stop-start sometimes!

After many training sessions on the track though, I'm back up to the 2 mile distance covered in 2005, but I forgot how much this takes out of me, however, I am determined to increase this distance before the big day and I hope to do myself and everybody who supports me proud."

Sitting and talking to Edward, it is clear that despite all he has been through, he has a very positive outlook on life which is accompanied by a brilliantly dry sense of humour.

I work with Richard Gerrard and I sponsored him 50p a mile the first year he entered (2007). It was his first attempt so I didn’t think he’d get very far, but it cost me about £25 in the end!”

[Note: Richard made it to Andreas that year and has since won the event 5 times so we are probably safe in saying that Edward won’t be sponsoring him 50p a mile again]!

It’s obvious too that Edward has the motivation and drive to succeed.

The idea of entering the Parish again has long been on the back burner but now is the time and I feel like I can do a lot of good. I think a quote from Spiderman is quite fitting; “With great power comes great responsibility”. I feel like I can take advantage of my situation to do a lot of good and I hope reading my story inspires at least one person to tackle something they’re struggling with.

Sometimes I think people are running away from whatever’s wrong in their lives and waiting for something or someone to step in and fix it for them, but you can be waiting forever while it just gets worse and harder to face. I've always been of the opinion you need to take matters into your own hands and just to deal with a problem head on and giving up never once crossed my mind, even when I was really ill”

This short quote encapsulates Edward's attitude towards adversity

Lesley has a similar view: “Edward can give a lot of hope to people who have had a stroke or suffer from a disability and it’s inspirational. I think it’s proof that you can set your mind to do whatever you want to”.

Edward says it’s also about going outside your comfort zone – something anyone who has ever done the Parish Walk will be able to relate to instantly! “It’s not all about doing physical activities to push yourself, I think you need to expand your mind too and try new things. Each year I try to at least 1 course through the IOM College, this year I signed up for four (whittled down from 10!). I signed up for Rest & Relaxation (Tai Chi & Chi Kung), Astronomy, Project Photography and Acting for Beginners. I’ve long held an interest in photography and astronomy, but the others are something I hadn’t done before. I’m also very open minded and I am a reader of books that make you think and look at yourself and the world in different ways, such as The Road Less Travelled and Sapiens.

Even from the very start I’ve been quite chilled about my circumstances and I guess that’s probably the reason I've never been depressed. When I was in hospital I was always joking and laughing and I think in the end that’s what kept me sane!”

I ask whether Edward feels that his personality or his mental attitude has changed since the stroke.

I wouldn’t say I am any different to what I was before, but maybe I am more grounded – my way of thinking is more mindful of things. I never used to really get angry about anything and I still don’t, but I suppose I am probably more philosophical about things now, although that has probably got more to do with maturity with age!

I’ve always had a laid-back attitude. I never actually thought ‘why has this happened to me’ – it’s just something that happened and I got on with my life the best I could. The only thing that really worried me was getting my voice back. I somehow always knew that I would walk again but wasn’t sure about talking. I think the whole experience when I was critically ill was harder on my family and friends than it was on me”.

Race number 2121 and the case of the spooky email


I’m keen to find out why Edward has asked to wear number 2121 when the average number of entrants is about 1,500. He says: “I was 21 when I suffered the stroke and it happened on the 21st October, so you could say that 21 is a pretty significant number for me”!

Going back through the emails between Jock, Edward and I to arrange the coffee meeting, I am astonished to discover that the email I received from Edward was timed at 21:21 (if you don’t believe me, here is the screen shot to prove it)!

The email from Edward at 21:21

They do say things happen for a reason… !

Hopefully Edward’s story has inspired you to go that extra mile in your own training, or maybe to think about aiming for that next church rather than the one you had your sights set on. Whatever you are doing on Saturday 22nd June though, make sure you keep an eye out for a very determined man in a pink “Team Edward” bib with a strange race number!


And for any of you wondering how the title relates to Edward’s story at all, I will put your mind at rest. Edward will be walking with a 4 wheeled walker he’s named Roy. Why Roy? Think of the gameshow Catchphrase and it should all become clear.

The final word has to go to Edward, and what he says surely epitomises what the Parish Walk is all about:

I like to challenge and better myself, life is a bit boring if you don’t”.

Adam Killip

05 May 2019

If you would like to sponsor Edward, he will again be raising money for the Manx Stroke Foundation and he please asks for your kind assistance to reach (or surpass)his target amount.