Wheelchair-user with debilitating skin condition set for charity challenge

A brave woman who battles constant pain caused by a crippling skin disease is ‘stepping up’ to join a major challenge to help fellow sufferers

Featured on: breakingnews.ie

Emma Fogarty, 38, was born with EB (epidermolysis bullosa), which causes her skin to blister and wound at the slightest touch. 

But she has been inspired by the efforts of more than 1,100 fundraisers who pounded pavements across Ireland last year – and is vowing to overcome the pain barrier for EB charity Debra Ireland’s ‘StepTember’ fundraiser next month. 

“Just sitting in a chair or lying in bed can cause me great pain,” said Emma, who needs fresh bandages at least every second day to treat the excruciatingly painful blisters which cover 80% of her body.  

“But I’m not going to let that beat me, and I’m determined to take part in StepTember.” 

Participants are being asked to complete 300,000 steps – 10,000 steps a day – during September to raise funds for EB sufferers.   

Although Emma is physically unable to walk and uses a wheelchair after losing a leg to cancer, she said coping with the pain from simply being outdoors is going to be her endurance test.   

“The challenge for me is to see if I can cope with the ramps, bumps and potholes. Something as small as a pebble in the road can cause a lot of pain and leave my skin damaged if a wheel from the chair goes over one,” explained Emma, from Abbeyleix in Co Laois. 

“I will definitely have many more wounds at the end of this challenge than at the beginning. 

“I had life-changing surgery and I will never take a step again. But, with the help of my amazing assistant Georgina Herlihy, I will be pushed the equivalent of 10,000 steps a week during September,” she said. 

Last year, the major fundraiser, which helps Debra Ireland support patients and their families, raised more than €130,000 – helping to fund vital research, nursing and patient support and family care. 

The charity supports 300 people in Ireland living with the rare and debilitating skin disease. 

Debra chief executive, Jimmy Fearon, hailed Emma’s decision to volunteer for StepTember as “truly remarkable and brave”. 

“Many people won’t have difficulty completing 10,000 steps a day. But few of us could imagine the challenges Emma faces whenever she has to go outside,” he said.  

“Debra Ireland is an amazing charity,” Emma said. 

“Without them we wouldn’t be able to get nurses or research funding resources, and they deserve all the help they can get.” 

If you can join Emma for StepTember and help raise funds for Debra Ireland, sign up for €30 at: www.idonate.ie/event/3750_steptember-challenge-2022.html and if you can not take part, simply donate at the same link. 

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