The new Lord Mayor of Leeds, Gerry Harper: an introduction

When he experienced his first epileptic seizure in 2004, The new Lord Mayor of Leeds, Gerry Harper, fought personal anger and annoyance. Eventually, he overcame these obstacles accepted this unwelcome addition to his life.

Gerry is part of a large community of epilepsy sufferers. Statistically, it’s estimated that 1 in 103 people in the UK has epilepsy. However, everyone else knows Gerry as the proud Councillor of Hyde Park and Woodhouse Ward. A sports loving, fundraising, staunch GMB Union member and now the Lord Mayor of Leeds for 2016-2017.

Naturally, he has chosen Epilepsy Action as well as Heart Research UK for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal this year. Both are national charities based in Leeds. We will focus on Heart Research later, but for now we’ll look at how Gerry’s experiences shaped his passion for helping fellow epilepsy sufferers.

In the early days of his diagnosis, Gerry struggled to understand why these symptoms were happening. It was a confusing and troubling time. With the help of Epilepsy Action, he was able to move out of this dark patch and speaking with others who suffer too. Thanks to recent advances in medicine, he has reduced the frequency of his seizures and can now go for long periods of time without relapsing. Without the work of this fantastic charity, it’s hard to see how Gerry could have gotten to this stage.

However, an epileptic fit can still leave Gerry needing rest, and potentially in bed for days. One particularly frightening episode a few years ago left him with a broken shoulder. Luckily for Gerry, he can now predict when a seizure is about to occur. Warning signs consist of an aura and dizziness. When this happens, the best course of action is to let somebody know and find somewhere safe to wait for the seizure to happen. Gerry credits his fellow Councillors for helping him when an epileptic fir happens at work.

There are many different types of epileptic fits beyond the one we are most familiar with: when somebody becomes stiff and falls down shaking (a tonic-clonic fit). Another common type of seizure is a focal fit. These begin with a strange feeling in the stomach, before becoming scared and fidgety. Fiddling with buttons is a common behaviour of somebody experiencing a focal fit. There are around forty different types of epilepsy and forty different types of seizure. A person can have more than one type in their lifetime.

Despite the difficulties, the new Lord Mayor does not let epilepsy dictate his life and copes with it upon happening.

Gerry is passionate about promoting healthy living and practices what he preaches. He is a member of his local gym, goes running when he gets the chance, plays tennis, swims and cycles. It’s this passion which spurs his support for Heart Research UK.

As stated above, Heart Research UK makes up the other half of this year’s appeal. This organisation fund ground-breaking medical research as well as helping communities to improve their lifestyles through Healthy Heart grants. These encourage people to live healthier, happier and longer lives. Coronary heart disease is still the single biggest killer in the UK today, causing nearly 70,000 deaths a year. Throughout his term as Lord Mayor, Gerry will be visiting local businesses to promote healthy living and showing people how to be useful should anyone have a cardiac arrest near them.

Helping Gerry in his endeavours is partner and Lady Mayoress Lynn Scholes. We very much looking forward to meeting her for a chat soon.

By 2030, Leeds City Council is aiming to make Leeds the best city for health in the UK (amongst many other things). It is fitting then that we have a Lord Mayor who is backing two homegrown charities that are driving forces in the city and across the country. Our elected officials are working hard to provide us with the tools to improve our lives and health. Fundraising for these two fantastic charities is a fantastic way of using the money needed to create healthier lifestyles for all.

Throughout the year we will keep you updated on how much the Lord Mayor has raised and how you can get involved. Please continue to check our website for further developments.

At Leeds Welcome we are honored to be supporting Gerry during his charity appeal by doing our bit to raise awareness and funds. If you enjoyed this post and want to do your bit to support the Lord Mayor’s chosen charities, visit our JustGiving page to donate:

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