SIXTEEN years after his life changed forever - brave Norton meningitis survivor Robert Parsons is challenging himself to complete a 10K walk as a way of thanking all those who helped him on the road to recovery.

Gutsy Robert has shown true grit and determination to try and find some kind of normality since the deadly disease claimed both his arms and legs when he was just 18.

He has kept himself busy driving thousands of miles round the country in his adapted car, paid for by the donations of many big-hearted members of the public who gave generously to a fund that was launched by his former employer Geoff Hill.

And now 34-year-old 'Bionic Bob', as he's calling himself these days, is gearing up for a 10K sponsored walk to raise cash for charity as a way of saying thank you to the people who gave so selflessly to help him on the road to recovery after tragedy struck.

He told the News: "I always said when people were fundraising for me at the beginning if I ever got back to where I could actually do something - I would. And I just like having little challenges for myself."

Rob, who was a van driver's mate for Geoff Hill Electrical Superstore in Amblecote when he fell ill, said he's been hugely inspired by the fundraising antics and can-do spirit of his former boss who raised more than a million pounds for Mary Stevens Hospice.

He said: "Geoff's the one who has inspired me to do the fundraising - and he's always talked about Mary Stevens Hospice so that had to be one of the ones I've picked."

Rob, who will also be raising money for Meningitis Now through the walk, is also been keen to show people how he's been helped by the money that was donated to his fund - which topped out at almost £180,000.

He said: "I was shocked by the amount that was raised. It was incredible. It really takes you back. You do feel you've got all these people behind you and you want to try and get back to as normal a life as you can as you've been given that opportunity. Whenever you have a bad day you think of all these people who've stood behind you, rooting for you and it spurs you on."

Rob spent four months in hospital after falling ill in August 2000 with what he first assumed to be a cold or the flu.

After collapsing at home, he was rushed to Russells Hall Hospital where his condition continued to worsen over the following weeks.

Medics eventually told him he would die if they didn't amputate both his arms and his legs. He also ended up losing part of his nose and lip and has had to wear a prosthetic nose in addition to prosthetic hydraulic legs to go out in public.

However - he has recently been undergoing reconstructive surgery at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital to rebuild his nose and lip which has been a big confidence booster - although he joked: "It takes a bit longer to shave as they've taken skin from underneath my chin. But I think it's worth it. I don't have to keep putting a prosthetic on."

Rob has yet to plan a route for the walk - which will take place on July 17 - but it will start from the Geoff Hill store in Amblecote High Street.

He said: "Hopefully I'm going to get some of my old mates from Geoff Hill's involved and it would be good to rope some other people in too.

"I should make it round hopefully. The most I've walked is about 7K and that was quite tiring at the end. On a cool day I'm a bit better, but it turns out the date I've picked for the walk is likely to be during one of the hottest weeks of the year. Hopefully we'll have a typical British summer and it won't be too hot."

He says he usually aims to walk around 3K each day but he'll have to start upping the distance in preparation for the walk.

As well as getting around on his hydraulic legs - Rob has even been learning to run after buying a pair of carbon fibre running blades of the kind used by Paralympic athlete Richard Whitehead.

Inspired by the incredible long-distance running antics of the double leg amputee, he said: "I always wanted to do it. You just feel better if you go for a run. It was quite hard at first but I can do a kilometre fairly comfortably now. I can't do 10K on them though, they're terrible for walking."

Rob hopes to raise around £1,000 from his sponsored walk - which be split equally between Mary Stevens Hospice and Meningitis Now.

He said: "I hope to raise as much as I can but I'd be really happy if I got to £1,000."

Geoff Hill, aged 88, has already kickstarted the fundraising with a £200 donation and he said of Rob's determination to live his life to the fullest and give something back: "It's amazing. He only told me the other day he was doing this; I was very, very pleased to hear it and that he's got an interest in life to help others; he's quite a guy. There's very few people who have got the determination, resilience and energy to achieve all sorts of things as he has."

Anyone wishing to sponsor Rob can do so online by going to