Paul Culshaw of Whitwell has earned his Dutch Parawings after qualifying as a military parachutist, as part of a fund-raising drive to support the hospital which saved his brother’s life.
Paul’s younger brother Nick has a hereditary degenerative heart defect which almost killed him at the age of 16. He has had to undergo major heart surgery a number of times with 6 oblations, experimental open-heart surgery and the installation of two pacemakers. Nick is somebody who never gives up, but his quality of life was getting worse and his life expectancy significantly shortened. With all other options exhausted it was the ‘last chance saloon’ and a heart transplant was the only remaining option.
After a year’s wait in Harefield Hospital, the generosity of a bereaved family and the skills of the hospital’s surgeons gave Nick a new heart and a new lease of life.
His older brother wanted to thank the hospital and decided to undertake two self-funded parachute jumps in a way that also paid tribute to their grandfather, who served in D-Day’s Overlord and Arnhem’s Market Garden operations.
Paul travelled to Holland in April this year to train, then in June jumped from a Dakota which took part in the original Overlord operation in 1944, dropping paras of the American 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions. The jump took place over the original drop-zone at Sannerville, just outside Caen as part of the official D Day commemorations.
Last month he took to the skies again to jump from the same plane, named ‘Drag em oot’ over Arnham, where the largest ever airborne assault took place involving over 20,000 men.
Paul has set himself a target of raising £2,000 for the hospital and the ‘Heart in a Box’ organ care scheme which keeps donated hearts and lungs in a warm, functioning state outside of the body. This makes them viable for up to four times longer than the traditional on-ice method giving more people a chance of a successful transplant.
One of his on-line sponsors joked ‘Please don’t try and emulate the American who aimed for the St Mere Eglise church spire. Mind you, an extra £50 if you do!’
Paul thanked everybody who has supported him and said of Nick: “His treatment and recovery following his heart transplant has been nothing short of a miracle.”
You can make a donation online at rbhcharity.org/fundraisers/75th-anniversary-dday-and-operation-market-garden-parachute-jumps.