HE WAS an ever-present at Falkirk matches for more than 50 years, working countless hours for his hometown club as a media volunteer and matchday programme editor.
Gordon McFarlane, known to friends as Big Gordy, was the type of unpaid super-fan who ensure the survival of sports clubs across the country.
But the 61-year-old has been unable to follow his team’s promotion campaign this season after suffering a severe stroke in July last year.
McFarlane was left paralysed down his left side and has since been confined to hospital, capable of making only short day trips due to his complex care requirements.
Now his family has launched a fundraising campaign to allow Gordon to finally return home to Falkirk. They plan to build a specially-designed extension to his house, allowing easy wheelchair access, but estimate total costs at £30,000.
“His recovery has been remarkable, considering 80 per cent of people who suffer a stroke so severe don’t survive,” said Gordon’s son Colin, 31, a PR executive.
“We are extremely grateful he is still here. It took him a long time to regain consciousness and then speech. He has problems with his short term memory, but his long term memory is brilliant - he can still discuss every aspect of Falkirk’s history.
“My dad will require four visits a day from two carers, who will assist him getting washed and dressed. We plan to enlarge his bedroom at home, allowing them to come and go with ease.”
His family believe it would not be appropriate for Gordon to move into a care home, where many residents would be 20-30 years older.
Colin, along with sister Laura, 28, and mum Linda, 58, are supporting a campaign by the Sue Ryder charity for improved health and social care at home for people with neurological conditions.
The foundation is calling for the Scottish Government to end “a postcode lottery” which determines what level of care people receive.
Research by Sue Ryder found that only a third of local authorities know how many people with neurological conditions have been inappropriately placed in older people’s care homes.
If these findings were replicated across Scotland it would equate to nearly a thousand people, a quarter aged under 65. This means they will miss out on the specialist neurological treatment, support and rehabilitation they would receive in a specialist centre.
“Neurological conditions can strike anyone, at any time, turning their life and the lives of their loved ones upside down, said Sue Ryder’s assistant director for Scotland, Pamela Mackenzie.
“Those affected can endure some of most painful and disabling symptoms of all health problems and this impacts on every aspect of their life, including their relationships, their children and their job. On top of this, they face an uphill struggle to get the specialist care they need whether in their own home or in residential care.
“It is clear from our research that the needs of people with neurological conditions have largely been overlooked in recent years.
“Now the true state of neurological health and social care services in Scotland has been revealed, we urge the Scottish Government to take immediate action to address these inequalities so people with neurological conditions get the chance of a better quality of life.”
Gordon’s family are hopeful he will be able to return home full-time by the end of the summer.
A JustGiving page has already receieved more than £6000, with a further £1500 being pledged privately.
“We have been blow away by people’s generosity, said Colin. “We’ll be fundraising till July and have a number of events planned to help us reach the full amount.”
Gordon has been able to attend two Falkirk games since the New Year and was warmly greeted by the Bairns first team squad.
“The club have been very supportive,” added Colin. “We’ve had donations and messages of support from other clubs as well, which shows just how highly regarded dad is in the game.”
For more information, visit Gordon’s JustGiving page.