Cyclist with rare illness motivated back into saddle
Rare Disease Day: Man followed TV fitness guru
A 65-year-old cycling enthusiast whose ultra-rare disease paused his pedalling for three decades says a lycra-clad celebrity is to thank for getting him back in the saddle.
After spending Christmas 1980 in hospital with an unknown ailment, Richard Gelati was ready for a change. For the previous three years he had been battling a mysterious illness.
Initially doctors thought it was a bug but it worsened rapidly with multiple incidents of paralysis and “kaleidoscope-like” vision, forcing him to give up his lifelong passion for cycling.
The following year, concerned that his lack of mobility could make him unemployable, Mr Gelati moved his family from Kent to the north-east of Scotland and began his own engineering firm.
But by 1988 his entire body was almost completely paralysed.
“For several weeks I could only communicate by blinking my remaining good eye,” Mr Gelati said.
“One blink for yes and two for no.” Soon after, he was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy – where the body attacks its own nerve endings. In 1993 he was given a ventilator to help him sleep, and by chance happened upon a catalyst to help him regain the strength lost from his hospital visits.
“One morning, while at the breakfast table, a fellow in a bright neon leotard came on TV called Mr Motivator,” he said. “I followed his exercises religiously each morning and before too long I noticed an improvement.
“I found someone who could make a custom made, adapted bicycle, and with this new tricycle, I resumed cycling again after 30 years out of the saddle.” Mr Gelati has now clocked up over 5,000 miles, with the added bonus of raising thousands of pounds for charity.
He said: “Every day is a challenge when you have a rare condition and although there are prejudices out there, your life can be a whole lot easier and fulfilling it you accept the help and kindness when it is offered, and with the support of your family you can achieve a great deal.”
Today is Rare Disease Day, designed to raise awareness of uncommon conditions among the public and policy makers.
“With support of your family you can achieve a great deal”
MOBILE: Richard Gelati has clocked up over 5,000 miles on his tricyle