Sam's Sahara camel trek in memory of grandfather

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Samantha Dunning has vowed to honour her grandfather’s memory by trekking across the Sahara with a camel – and helping others with liver disease.

The 28-year-old healthcare recruitment specialist from Bolton is about to embark on a 100km trek across the world’s most formidable desert.

Sam lost her grandfather Michael Leyshon, 75, six months after he was diagnosed with a liver condition. He spent the last part his life being cared for by his family with help from the British Liver Trust.

While an increasing number of people are contracting liver disease after drinking too much alcohol, Sam says her grandfather had not touched a drop.

“He never drank in his whole life but most people associate liver disease with a drinking problem,” said Sam.

“I work in healthcare so I’m a bit tuned into what happens when the liver fails. It’s not nice and the condition spread to my grandfather’s kidneys. He had been a very successful, active man.”

She added that the British Liver Trust had been helpful with counselling and “very much there for him and the family.”

Sam’s trek with a few others, including Sam’s sister and brother-in-law Nicola and Adam Bickell, also from Bolton, is expected to take six days, sleeping overnight in a tent loaded onto a camel.

She has to carry the rest of the gear in a heavy backpack. Daytime temperatures are set to soar to 50C.

She is busy training at the gym and regularly does 5K and 10K runs in the Manchester area. Last year, she competed in the demanding Total Warrior Challenge.

Sam specialises in healthcare appointments for HR GO Recruitment, and manages the company’s Stockport branch. Colleagues, including HR GO plc group managing director Craig Vidler, are sponsoring her, but she is still short of her £2,000 goal.

She has been getting up at the crack of dawn to sell things at car boot sales. “Liver disease can happen to anybody,” said Sam. “I would like to help the Trust care for sufferers like they did for my grand-dad.”

Mr Vidler added: “I am very impressed by Sam’s determination to tackle something so challenging to honour her grandfather. I wish her well.”

“We are so grateful to Sam,” said Audrey Cornelius, the Trust’s fundraising manager. “An estimated two million people are living with liver damage and diagnosis often comes too late. We need to do much more and funding is essential to keep our services going. We need to get people talking about and loving their livers as we do about our hearts.” 

“I think this is a really good cause,” said Sam. “Liver disease can happen to anybody and I would like to help the Trust care for sufferers like they did for my grandad.”