A 62-year-old Glentoran football fan is walking from east Belfast to watch his team playing at Carrick Rangers on Friday evening as a fundraising thank-you to the NHS for saving his life.
Stephen Beattie fell seriously ill a year ago and was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast as his family and friends who were not able to visit him because of Covid-19 restrictions feared the worst.
“I was having headaches for a while but nothing too serious,” said Mr Beattie. “But I got progressively worse and after going to the Ulster Hospital I was transferred to the Royal where it was discovered I had a subdural haematoma, which is bleeding on the brain.
“However I was very lucky. Neurologists worked their magic and amazingly I was back home within a few days.”
Mr Beattie, who lives in Newtownards, returned to his work at Royal Mail seven months later and he said he has decided to do the 12 mile walk to Carrick to express his gratitude to the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust’s team of surgeons, doctors and nurses at the RVH for saving his life.
In true football ‘you’ll never walk alone’ style, Mr Beattie, who is hoping to raise at least £3,000 through a JustGiving fund raising page, will have company on his journey from the Glens’ Oval stadium in east Belfast.
He said: “I’ll be going to Carrick with Colin Davidson who’s a Glentoran director and who is raising funds for a coronavirus emergency appeal on behalf of a food bank in Mersey Street.
“We reckon it should take us about four hours and we’ll be striding out to make sure we get to the kick-off in Carrick on time.”
Mr Beattie is a lifelong fan of Glentoran and he has been involved in high profile charity initiatives before.
In 2014 he was one of a number of Glentoran players, officials and fans who took part in a charity boxing tournament at La Mon House Hotel with proceeds went to the Survivors of Suicide charity in east Belfast.
For his 50th birthday Mr Beattie acted as Glentoran’s mascot leading his team out onto the pitch for a Boxing Day game against Linfield at Windsor Park in 2008.
“The mascots are usually children of course and at 6ft4ins I may have looked a bit out of place but I loved it, though the only downside was that the Blues won.”
Several years ago he featured in the centre of a photograph of Glentoran fans celebrating a win at the Oval.