Normally you celebrate anniversaries in 5 and 10 year cycles but this is a 4 year cycle that feels significant. It was the summer of 2012 that Rhys had his SDR surgery in St Louis.
The reason a 4 year cycle feels apt is that we landed back in London on the day the 2012 Olympics started, and Rhys went through loads of his rehab with me having one eye on the TV or radio following the team GB goldrush. SDR and the Olympics – the two events are for me, forever intertwined.
And then the Paralympics landed on a Britain that was giddy with success, eager to lap up more sport. The Paras left a deep impression on me at the time. I can remember sitting watching the opening ceremony on the TV in the kitchen.
The moment that’s etched in my mind is on youtube here (skip to 1:30). I’m no fan of classical music but the recital of Handel is to me both optimistic and reflective – which was precisely how I felt, sat in the dark with a beer in my hand in front of the telly.
Optimistic about where things would go post SDR, but reflective on the efforts and the support of others to get to this point.
Watching the opening of the Paralympics in Rio last week reminded of that moment.
Back in 2012 we’d bought tickets for The Paras and went to several events including the cycling in the velodrome.
I wrote about that on this blog. It was a brilliant day watching Sarah Storey win gold (she’s added more in the last 24 hours) and it made me think about Rhys and cycling anew.
We’ve had loads of progress in Rhys’ ability over the last few years. Rhys is way more able than he ever would have been, his walking is pretty good, he’s swum more than 100m but we haven’t quite managed to crack riding a 2 wheeled bike.
Chatting to a mate at work recently he mentioned that his kids had a cycling lesson that weekend. I’d never thought of that – that like swimming lessons a coach could give a hand with cycling.
After a bit of googling I found out that British Cycling run para cycling events. So I emailed them and Rhys and I went up to one on Saturday morning, held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.
As we got closer to the venue, signs in the road said that Stoke Mandeville was (of course) where the very first Paralympic games were held. They’ve got the cauldron the London Paralympic flame was held on there.
I realised then that it was also 4 years to the day that we were sat in the velodrome watching Sarah Storey storm to gold on her bike. Were the planets aligning for something to happen?
Well, if medals were being handed out for taking bumps and scrapes Rhys would have a gold. The coach there, Stuart (thanks for the session mate) took the pedals off Rhys’ bike and had him standing still, balancing quite quickly. He took a few bumps and knocks and his interest faded, so had a go on one of the hand bikes they had there. They’re quite cool.
After a break we had another crack on Rhys’ 2 wheeler and managed to pull off a bit of balance biking.
That was pretty much mission accomplished. It’s maybe what Team GB would mark as a ‘marginal gain’ but for us, a load of bumps and scrapes and a bucket of effort was paid back.
People that know me, know I like sport in many forms. But I’m aware that for many it doesn’t ‘fit’ and Rhys could be one of them, regardless of ability.
Those that have taken the field with me know I bring more enthusiasm than talent to sport. Though I value it, it’s not the be all and end all. There are other spheres.
Rhys has started to get the hang of playing the piano and last week got a distinction for a poetry reading he gave at school in the summer term. I’m chuffed about that. He’s had 2 cochlear impants since 2012, and I’ll happily raise a glass to those achievements for my profoundly deaf son.
If there’s something I’m dissapointed about it’s that 4 years on SDR still isn’t availble for kids in the UK without paying. I’ll spare you the detail but it was trialed here for a year and has been paused by the NHS whilst efficacy is assessed.
For me, and any SDR family there’s nothing to assess. Anyone that knew Rhys before and after surgery can tell you how effective this surgery is. You don’t need to be a clinician – our local newsagent will tell you it works.
Just last week newspapers carried the story of another child having to go to the US for self funded surgery when we all know that she should be having it here on the NHS.
She walked through the school gates this week to start school having previously used a wheelchair.
This is an ongoing political argument about SDR that I may pick up in a separate post.
As Rhys went to bed tonight we were talking about our day on the bikes and the Paralympics. He didn’t fully remember going to the velodrome 4 years ago so I showed him the photos. We also found some videos of the Para cyclists from London 2012 – they’re amazing.
And thats one of the things I love about sport and the Paras. The connections and coincidences it throws up. There was someone Rhys and I sat next to in the stadium on the final night of the Para’s in London as we watched the end of the track & field events that found this blog and got in touch – and meeting the guys at Stoke Mandeville this weekend can be added to the list of happy connections.
I trust and know, that whilst I’m watching Hannah Cockroft in my kitchen claim another gold for Team GB, that other families will be dicovering the value of sport, and the Paralympics over the next 2 weeks along with the Paras motto ‘Spirit in Motion’.
It is always lovely hearing your news of Rhys.
Joshua has a 3 wheeled tri bike and loves it.
He is now in year 9 at Mary Hare and doing well with a bumps ups and downs along the way. He will be 14 we can’t believe it.
Here are some pictures of Josh
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks Bron. Hope you’re well. G
Great post, G – really enjoyed reflecting on the things you said, particularly how far my little FaceTime friend has come! As you say, the ongoing challenges for people to be able to access the same opportunity to really enhance their lives carry on……unfortunately…….but hopefully Rhys’ story could be the inspiration that others need particularly if light does appear at the end of the tunnel……one day. X
Thanks Sara. Hope you’re well. G
Lovely hearing what Rhys has been up to and great seeing him on his bike. Lots of Love The Swaffs xx
Thanks Sue. Hope you’re well. G
Brilliant Gareth. Rhys will be rightly proud of his mum and dad one day
Thanks Lesley. Hope you’re well. G
Great too hear some progress
Lots of inspiration and very brave people in this envolving story
Good luck for the future
All the best
Thanks mate. G
Thanks for sharing Gareth and lovely to hear about the progress Rhys is making. Paralympic cycling watch out! Love to you all. xx
Thanks Cath. G x
Brilliant to have another catch up opportunity Gareth! So pleased that Rhys is making such fantastic achievements. Well done Rhys! Hope you 4 are all well. Hoping to be NW London in October so will message you both to see if you’re around. Xxxxxx
See you soon. G x
Hi Gareth & Co, over the last week or so, Marion and I have been watching the paralympics with facial expressions that have registered surprise,admiration, unbelievability , encouragement and total amazement. As for your ” connection ” with the Paras and to quote Marions words of last night ” I wouldn’t be surprised with Gareth and Sallys encouragement and determination if we won’t be watching Rhys in 2020. WATCH THIS SPACE !!
Marion & Gerry x
Thanks Gerry. I genuinely feel that the paras have done more than any other single thing to change the way we (me included) view people with disability. Thanks for the message, love to all. G