Edinburgh woman tackles her first Munro to raise money for MND Scotland in memory of her mum
First-time Munro climber Holly Passmore is planning to tackle Ben Nevis next month in memory of her mum Connie, who died of motor neurone disease (MND) just six days after being diagnosed with the terminal illness.
Holly, 26, from Colinton, will take on the UK’s highest mountain on April 2 to mark the fifth anniversary of her mum's death and is hoping to raise £5,000 for charity MND Scotland. Connie, who worked in the Scottish travel industry, died in 2018, three weeks before her 60th birthday.
MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This can cause sufferers to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided and the average life expectancy is just 18 months from diagnosis.
Holly said the first major symptom the family noticed was when Connie began to lose weight dramatically. “We were going to Pilates at the time, so we thought maybe she was just getting fitter, but then she turned from a plump woman to pretty much skin and bone in a matter of months.” Connie then began to struggle walking and would become breathless easily.
Holly, who now works for brain health company, Heights, was studying at the University of Strathclyde at the time. She said: “It also started to look like she had arthritis in her hands: she couldn’t hold cutlery properly, was dropping drinking glasses when drying them, couldn’t open jars, had shaky handwriting as she found it difficult to grip a pen.” And despite being a keen “foodie”, she was gagging when she ate.
After months of testing, Connie was officially diagnosed with MND on March 27, 2018. Holly recalled her dad John breaking the news to her and her brother Jack, 22. “My mum and dad came home and told us that it was MND and I remember crying and giving my mum a hug. Even then she still managed to be strong and going off what the doctors had said, we began to mentally prepare for a few years left together.”
But, 48 hours after receiving her diagnosis, a long-standing cough worsened and Connie started showing signs of flu-like symptoms. Holly said: “We took her to the emergency room on Thursday March 29 and it turned out to be pneumonia. After three days in hospital, despite showing signs of improvement, mum peacefully passed away in her sleep on Monday April 2, 2018, six days after her official diagnosis.”
Holly will be joined in climbing Ben Nevis by 15 friends, many of whom she met at primary school and who all have fond memories of Connie as a warm and nurturing person with a contagious smile and energy. Holly said: “I’m a bit nervous – I can walk for days on flat ground, but I have never done a Munro before. It’s all a bit intimidating so I’m very glad that I’ll have my friends with me for support.
“Me and some friends recently did the Seven Hills of Edinburgh which was about 22 miles, eight more than it was meant to be, and great training. I have also set up a walking challenge at work so I’m doing a lot of walking at the moment, all of which I hope will pay off.”
Julie Macdonald, MND Scotland’s head of fundraising, said: “MND is so brutal and fast. That’s why we need to continue fighting to find a cure for this devastating disease. Thanks to supporters like Holly, we are able to continue investing in cutting-edge MND research and provide vital support to people living with the disease in Scotland today.”
Holly also has a justgiving page to help her raise the £5,000 she is aiming for.