Facing the Fear Factor

A woman will confront her worst fears when she walks across London's historic bridges in memory of her mother-in-law.
Claire Dunnage (cropped)
Claire Dunnage, 39, from Romford, (pictured) has been terrified of walking or driving across bridges for as long as she can remember.

So when she found out Saint Francis Hospice, which cared for her mother-in-law Sandra Coats before she died earlier this year, was organising the London Bridges Walk on September 5th, she decided it was time to take action.
Sandra Coats receiving her BEM
"We were very grateful for the care Sandra received at Saint Francis Hospice and since then I have wanted to give something back to the charity," said the mother of four, who will be crossing seven of the city's landmark bridges as part of the fundraising challenge.

"A bridge for me is not what it is for other people.

"I have to plan every route I take in detail to make sure I don't have to cross any bridge.

"I would never walk over a footbridge and I cannot drive on a motorway because the thought of a flyover fills me with terror.

"I have got to the point where I cannot handle how I am any more. My children go abroad and travel up and down the country and sometimes I feel anxious and annoyed because I cannot join them."

Sandra, 60, (pictured) who worked as a Catering Assistant at Barking and Dagenham College for six years, was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2012 to recognise her outstanding contribution to the college. 

Sandra Coats receiving her BEM
Her husband Robert Coats said, "Sandra went above and beyond the call of duty.

"She helped lots of young people, many of whom had learning difficulties and disabilities.

"I am very proud of Claire and what she is doing for the hospice. It is a worthy cause and we will be there on the day to support her." 

The events security worker is currently receiving counselling to help her overcome her fear, which is known as gephyrophobia, and while it will be an emotional day she is hoping it will enable her to start leading a fuller life.

"I know this event is not going to conquer my fears but is a start," she added.