Farming was all Anthony Hawke ever knew as a child. His grandfather farmed 50 acres, his dad was a farmworker and his mother used to milk 250 cows every day.
By the age of 16, Anthony was a strapping 17 stone herdsman himself, studying for dairying qualifications and planning his future. A year later, however, life was very different. Struck down by muscular dystrophy, a serious muscle-wasting disease, Anthony found himself in a wheelchair with all of his plans on hold for good.
Today, at 44, Anthony lives in a specially adapted bungalow in Truro and is unable to use his arms or legs.
He said: “As a kid I was always riding around on tractors. I still dream about the farming life and wish I could go back to it, just to have a couple of acres and a few chickens would be great.
“I was as strong as an ox when I got my first job but within nine months I had to quit because it got to the point where I couldn’t do anything. It took a while for the doctors to diagnose me because there are only 1,000-1,400 people in the world who have got the form of muscular dystrophy that I have got.”
Anthony accepts he can do nothing to change his condition, but that doesn’t mean he’s prepared to give up on life. He says coping with his situation mentally has always been, and remains, the toughest challenge.
“I’ve had a lot of good times,” he said.
“And I tell myself there are a lot of people worse off than me. I’ve ridden through the New Forest in my wheelchair and Scotland too, chasing wild boar! I’ve got through a lot of wheelchairs because I’ve been so hard on them, but that’s the whole point isn’t it?
“I used to drive 30,000 miles per year, go abroad and even sleep rough in my car. I slept on the side of a mountain in Germany once. I used to like waking up somewhere different everyday but now I need the comforts of home. My ambition is to get a greenhouse and a shed and make my cider. I’ve got to keep busy though. I can’t sit here staring at that wall.
“My friends have been good to me. I well up just thinking about it. They’ve pushed me, carried me, dressed me, undressed me, put me on the toilet and put me to bed. I’ve been lucky to have them.”
Often unable to take full breaths, Anthony pushes himself to the max because ‘once he stops doing something it’s lost, and he can’t get it back’.
He added: “Because I can’t move my arms or legs, one of the most important pieces of equipment to me is this table, it helps keeps me up.
“I used to be able to pick up a bullock on my own and now I can’t even brush my hair. But you’ve got to keep going, haven’t you? The doctors said I wouldn’t see 20, but here I am today.”
Anthony’s condition means he often wakes in the night choking because of a build-up of phlegm. R.A.B.I helped buy him a special bed, so he could turn himself rather than rely on his live-in carer.
R.A.B.I also helped Anthony by purchasing him a special seat and hoist for his van and an all-terrain ‘Boma’ wheelchair, which has a strong but flexible steel chassis, advanced adjustable suspension and off road tyres, giving him the freedom to go out into the countryside on his own.
Anthony said: “I really can’t thank R.A.B.I enough for what they’ve done for me, they’ve been brilliant.”