AN inspirational man who has beaten the odds is taking part in the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile on March 25.
Tom Ray, 50, of Schofield Road, Oakham, was diagnosed with Pneumoccal Septicemia in December 1999 and has had both arms and both legs amputated and part of his face removed.
Over the last 12 years he has battled his condition with the support of his wife Nicola, 50, and children Grace, 14, and Freddie, 12, and is now turning his attention to helping others.
He said: “For years and years I have felt like I was the one who needed help but suddenly I have turned it around to help other people. It is a really positive development for me.
“I like to think of myself as a success story in a way because throughout all of this I have been able to hold my family together and that’s what’s really fundamental.”
In 2001 Mercury readers raised £9,000 to help Tom to get top of the range prosthetic limbs and he says that generosity is one of the reasons he has turned his life around.
Tom will complete the one-mile course at Rutland Water on March 25 and is hoping to raise £500.
He said: “When this first happened to me I had so much help from the Mercury.
“It established a trust fund which basically saved us from ruin. What happened was devastating both physically and financially.”
At the time when Tom was taken ill he was running a business with Nicola from their home in Hambleton.
Grace was two-years-old and Nicola was heavily pregnant with Freddie.
Tom said: “At one point, Nicola was at one end of the corridor giving birth to Freddie and I was at the other end having surgery.
“Freddie is going to be running the mile with me which I feel is very poignant.”
Nicola had to abandon the business to take care of the children but has since completed a fine arts degree and is now working as an art technician at Catmose College. She is running the London Marathon in aid of the Meningitis Trust this year.
Tom has also returned to work and is in the correspondence team at Lands’ End in Oakham. He has had three plays; House Arrest, Daybreak and Moonlight Serenade broadcast by the BBC.
Tom said: “Over the last couple of months I have been walking to work. It is just over a mile and sometimes I walk back through Oakham.
“I have to be careful because I have false legs and if I go too far it can be very painful.”
Tom has also been to Rutland Water to walk with Nicola and the children so that he can practice.
So far Tom has raised £375 and Freddie has raised £75.
Tom said: “I want to show that no matter what happens to you, with time and support you can turn it around and get back on your feet again and become a positive influence for others.
“It has taken me 12 years to put my life back together but I did it for my kids.
“This is my way of drawing a line under that 12 year period of recovery and now I can help others to do the same.”
Sport Relief supports people in the UK and Africa.
To sponsor Tom visit http://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/tomray and to sponsor Freddie visit http://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/freddieray