Sean Mitchell-England, aged 33, who lives in Plymouth, is a young member of St. Stephen’s Lodge No. 9147 meeting across the Tamar Bridge in Saltash, Cornwall. Sean has been struggling with severe health issues over the last few years which rapidly progressed into exacerbated hyper mobility and fibromyalgia. In this extremely short space of time, Sean has gone from being a fit and healthy young man to literally being bed ridden due to the severe pain he has to endure each day.
Following the relentless dedication of John Pritchard, a local visiting volunteer on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the process for acquiring the funds from the MCF for the chair has been relatively straightforward. What has been difficult and quite a complicated process was to have the chair custom built to suit Sean’s specific needs. The chair, having cost almost £4,000, will without any shadow of doubt be an absolute life changer for Sean. Having already taken delivery of it and with a few days of practice, it’s already making a massive impact with his mobility.
Sean said: 'I cannot thank John Pritchard enough for his persistence in assisting me with my claim; he has worked tirelessly to aid me and my family. Now I have this marvellous chair it will enable my wife Dominique and my two young daughters Ophelia and Talulah the added benefit of quality family time with me. I now have the means of unhindered mobility.
'Without the help and assistance of the Masonic Charitable Foundation I honestly have no idea what we would have done. Having struggled to work due to my fatigue and illness my daily living costs spiralled out of all control and as the sole earner in the family with a new born baby, I soon became unable to repay my mounting debts. At first depression set in followed by additional health issues together with further incurred costs and additional debt, which resulted in my embarrassment of having to declare myself bankrupt. I was at the lowest point of my life and I honestly knew of no other options. Things also became so bad we had to sell our personal items of any real value just to live. At that time, we thought we had no one to help us, not even family members could assist, and we ended up being given care parcels by the local authorities.'
Hearing Sean and his family’s plight, David Sands, the Worshipful Master of St. Stephens Lodge, stepped in to offer some advice. Following a few meetings together with John Pritchard, along with a few essential emails and phone conversations, it wasn’t long before the Masonic Charitable Foundation offered assistance. The Masonic Charitable Foundation have also helped Sean with his application for his Personal Independence Payment, which he was unable to complete himself due to chronic fatigue and pain he suffered.
John Pritchard commented: 'On meeting Sean it was obvious to see he and his young family were in desperate need of help. Not only was Sean unwell but he was completely embarrassed by his situation and I knew we would do everything to assist. Having made the initial enquiry with the MCF it wasn’t long before a plan of action was in place. Following the initial assessment it was clear that funds were needed urgently, which included food and even school uniforms for the girls. The Masonic Charitable Foundation assistance was exceptional and a termly allowance was agreed which included some ballet lessons for Ophelia. In my opinion the support I’ve received in dealing with the case on behalf of Sean and his family has been outstanding.'
Graham Bennett, the Provincial Grand Almoner for Cornwall stated: 'The working relationship between the Provinces of Cornwall and Devonshire have been outstanding. The bond we’ve struck up together for this application, greatly assisted by the United Grand Lodge of England was essential to ensure the smooth application process would be signed off without any delay. My sincere thanks go to the brethren from Devonshire who have helped create a perfect result for a serious problem. To meet Sean and see him with his mobility chair is very humbling and shows what an incredible charity the MCF is.'
Having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Sean has seen numerous doctors and a rheumatologist who initially explained what long-term complications he might expect. He has also received many treatments and therapies, but none have really helped and only made the condition worse or more painful for him.
Dominique, Sean’s wife added: 'Our youngest daughter Talulah turns two years old in a couple of days and Sean has not really been out of the house with her, for virtually 95% of her life. We cannot begin to express what a difference this mobility chair is already making, it’s absolutely amazing. We are now able as a family to enjoy the simple task of going to the shops. To see Sean enjoy his mobility and independence after so long of not being able to do anything, is very emotional. To all those who have helped us, particularly the brethren and the MCF, we will be forever grateful. We have been given an amazing opportunity to grow as a family once again.'
To conclude, Sean insisted on the final word: 'I have given my story as my way of thanking the MCF and the people who have worked with me during the last few years, as they are our unsung heroes in my eyes and have made such a big impact on my hopeless situation. I am starting to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Freemasonry.'