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Where Kate met Kevin

Kate Howatson (MA 1982) arrived here as an undergraduate in 1978 and, in the best St Andrews tradition, she met her future husband Kevin (MBChB 1980) during the first semester.  Kevin died of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2015, and Kate and her daughter Olivia decided to walk the North Coast 500 this summer (2019) in his memory and to support the vital research into MND that is currently taking place at St Andrews and other universities across Scotland.

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Raisin Monday 1978
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I’m on the right with a balloon hat on my head!

I arrived in St Andrews in October and by Raisin Weekend I had met Kevin, who adopted me as his academic daughter. We developed a close friendship that gradually blossomed into romance. Kevin graduated MBChB in 1980 and I followed with an MA in Psychology in 1982. As with most medics in St Andrews, Kevin completed his studies at Manchester, and I moved down to England in 1987 to join him after I had qualified as an Educational Psychologist.

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Kevin and I at University Hall Ball

We settled in Yorkshire, where our daughter Olivia was born, but St Andrews continued to play a significant role in our lives. Although we lived and worked in England, Kevin’s parents lived in Fife, as did several of our friends, so regular visits to the town were part of the family calendar.

Kevin was ultimately appointed Consultant Microbiologist at Harrogate District hospital and had an Honorary Chair in Medical Microbiology from Hull York Medical School. In October 2014, however, we received the devastating news that Kevin was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) – a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This can cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided. In Kevin’s case, the disease progressed very rapidly, and he died at home in November 2015 at the age of 58.

Everyone with MND has a different journey and a different story to tell. When MND is mentioned most people think of Stephen Hawking, but his experience was very different from ours. I have cherished memories of our time at St Andrews and the years Kevin and I shared together. It was a privilege to care for him and a mark of his trust in me to allow me to do so.

Olivia and I decided to walk the North Coast 500 in memory of Kevin and to raise funds for MND Scotland to support the vital research which is being carried out into the disease by St Andrews and other universities across Scotland.

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Day 1: Setting off

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Day 10: struggling to stay upright!
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Day 13: having fun with the wind …
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Day 19: 300 miles!
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Day 24: a new friend
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Day 26: the lovely staff at the Applecross Inn

We managed to complete the walk within a month – between 10 August to 7 September – and met many lovely and generous people along the way who cheered us on and helped us to keep going when we were exhausted, despondent and drenched. We were given tea, cake, champagne and kind words. You can read about our adventures and the special people we met on our journey on our blog www.500MilesBy4Feet.com

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Day 30: We’ve done it!

We hope that the money we have raised will help to achieve our dream: that the research being carried out in universities like St Andrews will mean that in the future, if someone is given a diagnosis of MND, it won’t be the devastating news that it is today.

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