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From Memory Walks to a Skydive! Our first ever A2B Community Cabby, Abbi Fielden, is all set to lift her support for the Alzheimer’s Society to new heights.

Abbi will be taking on a tandem skydive on Sunday 6th March in memory of late mum, Lesley Elliott – raising funds for the organisation that provided Lesley with vital assistance throughout her eight years living with Alzheimer’s.  

Ahead of her leap for Lesley and with a rejuvenated view on living life to the full, Abbi has bravely penned the story of her mum’s battle and why it’s motivated her to take on the exciting challenge.

“It’s actually something that I’ve always wanted to do and had planned to do last year for my 40th birthday. Unfortunately, I actually woke up on the floor of Addenbrookes’ Hospital on the morning of my 40th, supporting mum.

Mum was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s when she was 62. We noticed at first when she would forget things. We were playing a game and she couldn’t remember her own date of birth. Right away that was an early sign of something ,which is pretty basic and that wasn’t quite right.

Once she was diagnosed I became her carer, which was a challenge due to the travel back and forth from Soham. That became a way of life for all the family, we had two kids at the time and mum to care for as well.

The situation after a few years became untenable. We were getting phone calls from the neighbours as mum would go out walking at 2am without shoes or a coat in winter. From there she went into residential care, which initially wasn’t quite the right place for her and so she moved to the wonderful Cherry Hinton Care Home by TLC Care, who I can’t rate highly enough. She was safe and really happy there.

From the Alzheimer’s diagnosis through to the end, we had eight years of it for mu. It’s a disease I really wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Every day to see mum disappear a little bit was incredibly tough.

There was one thing I am very grateful for, is that from the minute mum got diagnosed I had one fear which was I would walk into a room and she wouldn’t recognise me. And she never lost that, she knew because when I walked towards her, the smile would appear across her face and she knew I was hers.

Sadly around January last year she caught a basic cold/chest infection, which developed into pneumonia and sepsis. She was rushed into Addenbrookes’ where she was diagnosed with going into kidney failure. That was quite a phone call to receive!

I knew I had to be with her because the dementia combined with her being in a strange place with strange people, was something I knew she would struggle with. It did mean I couldn’t see my kids for a long period because Covid was still very much around in Addenbrookes at the time. That was the hardest decision out of all them we had to make.

My two brothers and I stayed with mum, because we were told we had 48 hours left with her although we ended up getting 18 days. Addenbrookes’ were brilliant, they tried everything possible, looked after us so well and even found us a room that we could all be together in – fully in the correct PPE. In those moments, as a family it actually brought us all closer. She passed gracefully with us all around her thanks to Arthur Rank Hospice who were also absolutely amazing.  

I gave myself a year and the right amount of time to grieve, before the skydive idea came back. This time I thought why not do it for the Alzheimer’s society and in memory of mum?  I’ve always tried to support charities and with now having three children, it feels like a good example to set for them and a positive lesson to teach them in having empathy for others.

The Alzheimer’s Society provided mum and us as a family with so much support through their buddy system. Once a week they would sit down for a cup of tea with mum or take her shopping. That allowed me a bit of break. They were fully trained and always there happy to help. These organisations are so important and require the funding. So I really want to anything I can, to help anyone else who has to go through the same experience we had with mum.

Every year for the last four or five years, with my children we take part in the Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk to help raise money for them. It felt very natural to decide which charity to support when the idea of the skydive came about again. 

From Memory Walks to skydives now. I’ve never done anything like this before. Since even before losing mum, it has taught me that life is way too short. Mum was 62 when diagnosed, looking forward to a nice retirement with her grandchildren, spending time with us, a bit more disposal money and she was robbed of all that. So that has kickstarted me to enjoy life to the full, live for now!

There will be quite a troop of us all there for the day of the skydive. My dad, my stepsister and my stepmum – who is already worrying – will all be there supporting.  My kids and my kids’ dad Jason, who really was incredible in his support for my mum and knew her for 20 years himself. I have some of my closest friends travelling on the day also.

Ten years ago if someone told me I would be jumping out the clouds, I would have said, ‘No I’m not –  not without a boot up the backside.’ I might still need that but I’m really excited about it. It’s for a great cause and something amazing to tick off the bucket list. And I think it will feel like a real celebration for mum on the day.”

To support A2B’s first ever Community Cabby, Abbi, and the incredible ongoing work of Alzheimer’s Society – please click here to donate at her JustGiving Page.

Abbi's Alzheimer's Support Skydive