While the coronavirus pandemic has caused much misery around the world in 2020, one remarkable North Wales man has used his inner strength and resilience to turn a negative into a series of positives.
Andrew Edwards from Gwersyllt, Wrexham, who is autistic, has lost three stone (19 kg) in weight since Covid hit in March – and alongside that has achieved all sorts of other great things.
In Andrew’s own words, here is a list of his accomplishments. Remember, people with autism find many everyday tasks a lot of us take for granted extremely difficult.
Andrew’s diary of achievement….
Since the Pandemic hit in March, I have lost 19kg (3st) in weight.
Battling eating disorder
Finally started to manage and understand my autistic eating disorder which has troubled me all my life
First-ever half marathon
From first light on a sunny autumnal day on Friday 16th October 2020, I ran my first ever half marathon in 1.54.10. Hitherto to this, I hadn’t ever ran more than 7.5 miles in my life. This no longer felt challenging so I thought that I would go for it.
Taking into account my four mornings a week gym coaching sessions and a favourable weather forecast, I gave myself a week’s notice. I knew that I didn’t want to be in an organised event as I like to go at, or as close as possible to, first light.
If I had to wait for waves of a run to start it would make me too anxious to perform with my autism while greatly draining my energy levels emotionally.
I didn’t even get sponsors to raise money for charities that I support and cherish as that would be pressure for me. I did this half marathon run to prove to myself that I could do it and the personal achievement. No other reason.
Strangely enough, I didn’t like running much before the pandemic. Although, on the rare occasions, I did go running before then, I could still run 7.2 miles without stopping due to my Strength & Conditioning coaching sessions at NumberOneHSP in Queensferry, Flintshire.
I made big gains and broke many personal bests outside of the lockdowns in these sessions with my coach since 2nd March 2020 Chris Hibbert, the Buckley Town centre-back.
“Hibbo” scored the Bucks last goal before the pandemic in a 1-0 Cymru North win over Penhyncoch at The Globe on “Buckley Day” – Saturday 7th March 2020.
Scored my first ever run for Chirk Seconds against Welshpool Seconds at Maesydre on Saturday 1st August 2020 in the Borders Division of the Shropshire County Cricket League.
I have been featured for various facets of my life with autism since the pandemic on the BBC, ITV Wales website, Men’s Fitness magazine, Grassroots North Wales website, The National Autistic Society “Stories from the Spectrum” strand and many others.
I have gone a personal best seven months without an autistic meltdown despite being in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic with the uncertainty of lockdowns constantly lurking at us. Here is to a lot longer without an autistic meltdown.
Learned to enjoy walking the hills around Gwersyllt, Wrexham, where I have lived all my 36 years, with my elder sister Melanie Beckley.
Learning to Drive
I have also made big progress in my driving lessons in an automatic with Martin Cohen of MC Driving School of Wrexham. Among my lessons, I have driven around Wrexham Town Centre, A55, A483 and from my lifelong home in Gwersyllt to NumberOneHSP, my gym, in Queensferry.
It will undoubtedly take me longer than many learners to pass due to the perception issues arising from my autism, but I do think that I have noticeably improved though this year despite the lockdowns taking up five months of the year.
Yes, we will almost certainly end 2020 in another lockdown in Wales. However, I am hopeful that 2021 is going to be brighter thanks to the miracles that medical science has provided us with the development and current rollout of the vaccine. There is good out there, although it seems that this is usually overshadowed, especially this year. It isn’t. It just seems like it sometimes.
As it states in the blurb of my well received 2015 autistic memoir “I’ve Got a Stat for You – My Life with Autism” on Staffordshire based Bennion Kearny publishing, “a positive outlook can overcome most odds.
Hazel Davies (2/2/1943 – 18/12/2020)
Amidst the many joys of this article, it is so unfortunate we have to report on an extremely sad occurrence in Andrew’s life.
Andrew’s mother, Hazel Davies, recently passed away aged 77.
Hazel was no ordinary mum. She was a phenomenally important figure in Andrew’s development, especially when it came to helping him deal with his autism and fighting his corner when he faced a multitude of hurdles.
Before she passed, Hazel will have known of and celebrated all the great achievements of her son this year and will have been immensely proud.
Therefore, the article above is dedicated to the memory of Andrew’s beloved mother, Hazel Davies (2/2/1943-18/12/2020).
Andrew paid the following tribute to his Ma….
“My beloved Ma passed away aged 77 at about 11.40 pm on Friday 18th December 2020 at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
“It was said to be Covid related, but we believe that it was a Urinary Tract Infection probably caused by a Prolapsed Womb that was the main reason of her passing.
“Just eight days before her passing, she was great and her usual self whilst showing nothing of what was to come.
“On this occasion, Ma accompanied myself and Melanie in the car to NumberOneHSP gym in Queensferry, Flintshire, as she always did four mornings a week. Without fail, rain or shine she never missed any of my Strength & Conditioning coaching sessions from when I joined NumberOneHSP in April 2017.
“Also, even as recently as nine days ago, Ma was able to make a big fuss of her newly born great-granddaughter Olivia, who is Louis’ daughter.
“I know that she hasn’t been in any pain whilst also not being a burden, which is always what she wanted as Ma was so full of self pride.
“Apart from not passing away at home in front of her beloved family as Ma always wanted, the quick manner she departed was what would have wanted. It was so quick that the family all thought that she had another 15 years of great life left in her as her general health was very good despite being much closer to eighty than seventy with physical difficulties.
“I will always remember all the funny stories that followed Ma. When the Vaccine hopefully does it’s magic by next summer we are planning on having a commemorative event with invites to all those Ma cherished, loved, cared about, respected or was appreciative of for how kindly they treated her daughter and her beloved autistic son.
“In addition to this, I am in discussions with my club mates at Chirk Cricket Club and Wepre Park, where I have volunteered since August 2017, which was also a place Ma loved, regarding how best to commemorate my Ma.
“What has helped me is literally up to a thousand messages that I have received via What’s App, text, calls and emails from those that Ma loved, cherished, cared about, respected, was appreciative to for their kindness to her beloved autistic son, those she met who will never forget her or those that simply knew of her vicariously through me. Ma was very well respected.
“I am not going to mourn or grieve this inspiring, fighter, determined, superhuman’s passing but commemorate, appreciate, remember and celebrate her life as I know that is what Ma would have wanted.”