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Shropshire ex-serviceman given new lease of life thanks to the Armed Forces charity SSAFA
12 Jul 2016
by Rebecca Dutton

An ex-serviceman who has difficulty walking due to the effects of a degenerative brain condition has been given a new lease of life – thanks to the help of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity in Shropshire.

Steve Lobb, who served as a rifleman and bugler in the Light Infantry for more than 10 years, was diagnosed with severe cerebellar atrophy five years ago.

The incurable condition causes cells in the area of the brain which controls balance and coordination to deteriorate and die.

Over the last five years, Mr Lobb, of Oak Bungalows, Ellesmere, has gradually lost control of his legs and is no longer able to walk without the help of a walking stick or wheelchair. The 57-year-old also suffers from lack of coordination and tremors in his hands.

Until recently, the situation had left Mr Lobb, a previously very active man who enjoyed running, basketball and hockey as a soldier, increasingly isolated and housebound with concerns being raised over his mental well being.

Mr Lobb, who has seven grandchildren, said: “I was in the building trade for more than 25 years when I came out of the army.

“I first noticed something was wrong when one day whilst tarmacing on a building site I bent down but then couldn’t get back up again.

“I didn’t think it was anything to worry about but the doctor seemed concerned.

“After several tests and an MRI scan I was diagnosed with cerebellar atrophy.

“It came as a real shock and I’ve become very frustrated by the fact I can’t do the things I used to do.

“Last year I had a fall at home and broke my hip in two places.

“This was the turning point really and when things started to go down hill.”

His wife, Heather, said: “We knew at this point we needed help and that Steve would need a wheelchair but we had no funds.

“Increasingly Steve became more and more housebound and it started to impact on his mental health.

“That’s when we approached SSAFA the Armed Forces charity for help.”

John Vernon, case manager for SSAFA Shropshire, began working closely with the couple and after just a few months managed to secure a grant to help purchase an electric scooter for Mr Lobb.

The new vehicle was recently delivered to his home with the help and assistance of Mark Astley, specialist manager and seating consultant for Ableworld in Shrewsbury.

Speaking about the new scooter, Mr Lobb said: “It’s completely changed my life. I can now get outside, go to the shops, play with my grandchildren and take them to the park.

“I am so grateful to John and Mark. Without their help I would still be trapped in the house feeling very depressed. I can’t thank them enough.”

Mr Vernon said: “It’s fantastic to see Steve getting out and about on his scooter.

“It gives him back an independence he did not previously have and that is wonderful to see. He is a completely different man.”

Mr Astley added: “When I first met Steve I could tell that being housebound was having an effect on his mental wellbeing. However since having his scooter I have spoken to him a few times and there is now an enormous positivity about him which is fantastic.”

SSAFA is the oldest national military charity in the UK and its network of around 6,500 volunteers supports some 55,000 serving personnel, reservists, veterans and their families each year. For more information on SSAFA and what it does, please visit www.ssafa.org.uk

The charity, which operates from an office in Copthorne, Shrewsbury, is open from 10am-12pm every day as well as two mornings a week in Southwater One, Telford.

For more information or advice email shropshire@ssafa.co.uk or call (01743) 344220. Also see the website at www.ssafa.org.uk/shropshire.

 Heather Lobb, Mark Astley of Ableworld Shrewsbury, Steve Lobb and John Vernon, case manager for SSAFA Shropshire.

Heather Lobb, Mark Astley of Ableworld Shrewsbury, Steve Lobb and John Vernon, case manager for SSAFA Shropshire.