I was born with a rare bone condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta – otherwise known as Brittle Bones. Due to a genetic mutation affecting my body’s ability to produce collagen, my bones are more fragile and less dense. I’ve suffered over 70 broken bones, mostly to my legs, but also to my spine, arms, ribs, and fingers. I’ve endured dozens of surgeries to realign my fractured bones by placing metal work inside me to stabilise them, and due to this, I have spent many hours hooked up to IV drips for treatments to increase my bones density.
Growing up with a disability
I grew up surrounded by people who felt anxious being around me and unsure of what I was capable of, whilst many others placed their own expectations on me. All they understood about me was that I could fracture by doing little or nothing at all, so nobody wanted to take the risk. I always knew I was able to do more.
The first ‘active’ thing I ever did was swimming, which was perfect for me because it allowed me to move freely, weightless in the water. Over a couple of years this became more than just hydrotherapy, and I started training at my local pool getting stronger by the week.
I swam for schools, town, county and regional area (south east), and progressed to attending training days with the GB team. I started to set my sights on competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. During this time I also competed in other sports such as Boccia, Archery, Table Tennis, Wheelchair Hockey, Wheelchair Basketball, Kayaking, Rock Climbing and many more.
A couple years leading up to London 2012 I began to suffer more and more with severe pain in my lower back. Despite multiple trips to A&E due to the intensity of the pain, it wasn’t till 2012 that Great Ormond Street Hospital discovered a fracture in my spine which had not healed. I was instructed not to partake in any physical activity from this moment on until I had surgery which eventually took place in 2013.
The surgery involved a bone graft from my hip, and placing this and metal work to support and stabilise my fractured vertebrae. The surgery itself was fairly routine at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, however, when I woke up from the surgery in HDU I was faced with little mobility in the lower half of my body. According to the doctors the surgery went to plan, however for unknown reasons nobody has ever reacted to it the way my body did. What should have been a 5 day stay in hospital recovering, turned into nearly 4 months rehabilitating. I had to learn to log roll, sit up, transfer, go to the toilet, stand and walk all over again. It was during this time my entire life flipped upside down and I lost my direction, and my purpose.
A New Direction
In 2014, I began to build a fresh plan for my future. I started back at a new college studying a Sport BTEC equivalent to 3 A Levels. This led to me coaching children at local schools, and finding my way getting into wheelchair sports again.
In 2015, I was volunteering at a county event for children in Sussex with physical and learning disabilities to compete in a variety of sports. I was chatting with a young student who competed on the track, and he spotted my strong upper body. This led to me receiving an invite down to the local track and that’s where my racing story began.
Later that week, I went along and tried out the local clubs racing chairs. Once I was used to moving the chair, they timed me on the 100m straight and we were pleasantly surprised when I clocked in at a respectable 24 seconds.
6 weeks later I competed at the London BUPA Westminster Mile, and the London City Mile, placing 2nd in both events. From then on, I guess you could say the rest has been history. To find out more about my achievements since, please take a look at my racing highlights.