A FATHER is preparing to compete in Bolton’s Ironman tomorrow — seven years after he was diagnosed with a crippling illness that left him unable to walk.

Dean Ramsden was on holiday with his family in Spain in 2007, when he woke up to find he was unable to move his neck.

Doctors could not understand why Mr Ramsden, who lives in The Crescent, Horwich, was suffering with increasing stiffness and pain.

The 46-year-old IT specialist, who works at Premex Services at the Middlebrook, said: “For the next six or seven months no one could work out what was wrong with me and it was getting worse every day, I started to become hunched over and could barely move.”

Several months later, Mr Ramsden was diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the bones in the head and spine. He said: “They put me on lots of drugs, but they weren’t working — by now I couldn’t walk, I was unable to sleep or play with my kids — it was a living nightmare.”

Doctors then offered Mr Ramsden a new drug in the form of Humira injections, which had a remarkable effect.

He said: “Within two weeks the pain had started to go away — it was like a magic wand.”

Mr Ramsden, who has a wife Gill and children, Joseph, aged 12 and 16-year-old Megan, wanted to get active again as soon as possible and just six months later took up karate.

Then Mr Marsden decided his next challenge would be the ultimate endurance test — Ironman. He added: “By far the biggest challenge for me has been the swimming element — my back is still curved so it makes it incredibly hard. I can’t wait to complete the swim and thank my family who have supported me every step of the way.”

Mr Ramsden is raising money for the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Alzheimer’s Society. To sponsor him, visit justgiving.com/teams/deanramsden