Oly’s Story…

{Linked from Everyday Miracles…}

I was born with congenital limb deformities.
In layman’s terms this meant I was born without both fibulas (calf bones) and missing digits on both hands.
I also have one leg a few inches longer than the other, because one thighbone is longer than the other. (in case you’re wondering, it’s my left that’s longer).
I’m told that my granddad took one look at me and said to my mother; “He’s still beautiful though”.

I spent the next 20 months or so as any other ‘normal’ baby.
You know the sort of thing, crying, pooping, eating. All the fun stuff.
In addition to this I had cosmetic surgery on both hands for functional reasons. I still managed to walk with specially adapted shoes and calipers though, and achieved this by 18 months old.
The next event of major significance was in December 1985, when I moved with my family from Bristol in Somerset to Crowborough, in East Sussex.
Part of this move found me being referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where a top peadiatric orthopeadic surgeon recommended that the only real option was an amputation.
The only alternative would have been me spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

The decision was made to amputate.
This must have been one of the most difficult decisions for my parents to make. Both being only 23 years old at the time, I don’t know how they did it.
My younger sister was only 3 months old when they had to make this life-changing choice on my behalf, but I have never held it against them and never will.

I had a double below knee symes amputation at the age of 2 and a half. This means they amputated through my ankles and wrapped the padding of my feet around the end of the bone. This gives extra padding to the end of the bone.
From talking to other amputees throughout my life I’m told this is a good thing to have.
After speaking to my mother recently she tells me I was up and walking around on my prostheses within 6 weeks of amputation.
I never have liked sitting still.
I even have a video of me in the hospital kicking a ball, only five days after having the limbs fitted.
My sister, who was 9 months old by then, was learning to walk at the same time. She seemed confused that she didn’t have to put on a pair of legs to stand up and walk.

“I suppose the next significant part of my life would be playgroup.  Here I met Tim and Martin who would turn out to be my best friends and still are to this day.
From memory my favourite time at playgroup involved ‘Bikes’.
If you’ve ever been to watch banger racing, imagine that but with 20 or so 2 year old boys on trikes in a church hall.
There was never any question of my ability to scoot round on a trike, I just did it. In fact from an early age I don’t ever remember my legs causing me any problems “disabling” me, or preventing me from doing anything that I’ve ever wanted to do.
The owner of my local gym recently said to me “You’re the most least disabled person I know” Now he’s not one for words but I kind of got the idea of what he was trying to say.

In September 1988 I started primary school. I was all dressed up in my blazer, shorts and cap. I looked adorable!
My two best friends were also with me at the top of the school drive when we waved goodbye to our mums and disappeared into Reception class, a mix of learning, playing and meeting lots of new people. And there was one boy who won’t ever forget his first meeting with me.
Whilst playing on the climbing frame he asked what had happened to my legs.
Now I have no idea why I told him this or where the idea even came from;  I told him that I had lost them in the war!
He was (unsurprisingly) amazed by this and went straight home to tell his mum. I think she was equally amazed and, after speaking to my mum, was reassured that her son wasn’t in fact at school with a juvenile war hero.

There are many opportunities for amusing situations when you have prosthetics; ranging from the time a boy attempted to pull me out of a tree by grabbing my feet, the result of which was to leave me up a tree, laughing at the stricken face of a small boy holding a pair of legs; to me being chosen for the hugely important year 4 vs year 6 football match. This happened every year and I was surprised to be picked for the team. However I think I gave everyone a shock when I kicked the ball towards the goal and my leg followed. Luckily the ball and my leg both landed in the back of the net. If I remember correctly this game ended with a year 4 victory, this was very rare.

Throughout my primary school career I had lots of legs.
As I’m sure you know children grow and at times I was having a new pair of legs every 3-6 months. At the age of seven I found myself having further major surgery to my hips and thigh to make the fitting of my prosthetic limbs easier.
This was a particular blow as I was unable to walk for several months and was in plaster from the waist down. However I was bought a Commodore 64 computer and this seemed to ease the pain somewhat.

By the age of 10 basketball was my life.
Chicago bulls were the team and Michael Jordan was my idol. I loved basketball so much that I even slept with my basketball sometimes. I also joined the cub scouts at this stage of my life, yet again more new people and more questions. This time however my Akela, (cub scout leader) who was also a massive basketball fan, informed the whole pack that I was to be treated no differently than anyone else. Here I met another friend who was also a Chicago Bulls fan and who, handily, lived just down the road. We spent so much time playing basketball together and if I do say so myself, we were pretty good.

September 1995- Secondary school.
Again I was joined by my other two musketeers (Martin and Tim).  Now when people first meet me they immediately notice my hands, they are usually shocked when I tell them I have two false legs as well.
Secondary school for me involved minimal learning and maximum amount of sport. Mainly basketball of course but I also did everything else. My parents raised me in such a way that they let me try everything (and I did).

Whilst writing this I spoke to my mum a lot and she told me a story about something that happened at the local park when I was about 3 years old.
Mum and my Nan took me to Wolfe Recreation Ground and like every other child I wanted to go on the slide. There were two slides, one small and one big.
Guess which one I went for.
Now my Nan was always worrying about me. She turned to my mum as soon as I started to climb the ladders to the big slide and said ‘You can’t let him climb them’.
My mums response was ‘I have to let him try’.
My parents have always encouraged me to try anything and everything and not let my ‘disability’ stop me. Being raised this way has turned me into the person I am today, I never let anything stop me from doing things, yes there are certain things I have to do differently but I will always find a way to do the things I want to.  In my 30 years I’ve never come across anything that I haven’t been able to do.

For those of you who say “I cant” when you come across something a little bit difficult, my response to you would be; If you want it badly enough you will find a way.

Go on give it a go, you wont know until you try.

Dale asked me to provide a list of my “achievements” as he put it. To me, they are just my life.
(These are only the ones I remember, there’s probably a lot more)

Learned to walk. Twice.
Play football.
Swimming. (Representing England internationally)
Ice/roller skating.
Jet bikes/skis.
Piloted a glider.
Go karting.
Rock climbing.
Most theme park rides (Even the ones where you dangle your legs)


17 responses to “Oly’s Story…

  1. Claire Gjaci (was Seale)

    September 7, 2014 at 10:13

    Wow Oly, what a story! You truly are an inspiration but then I knew that when I first met you all those years ago in Safeway’s! I’m not sure why ‘getting into Bugattis with Claire’ wasn’t on your lifetime achievements?!
    Love you Oly

    • dalecooper57

      September 7, 2014 at 10:15

      Damn, didn’t think to ask him about his chat up lines.
      Thank you for your comment Claire, it was a privilege to allow Oly’s be told to more people.

  2. Teresa moffatt

    September 7, 2014 at 12:38

    Truly inspirational Oly! I always remember the time I took Anna, Hannah, and yourself swimming at uckfield. The girls obviously took longer getting changed after getting out of the pool! When we came out to the car park there you were balancing and walking across the top of the bars where people parked their bicycles. I remember my heart missing a beat and the fight between saying ‘get down before you fall’ and the knowledge that if I distracted you by saying it you probably would fall!….and of course…you didn’t! Xxxx

  3. Penny Smith

    March 26, 2015 at 13:34

    Hi Oly. I know your mum through work and she recommended I read your blog as I am studying at the moment and she has kindly helped me with an assignment. Thank you for sharing your story – you have travelled an incredible journey and, as you say, not let your ‘disability’ stop you doing things you want to do. Your list of “achievements” is incredible – you have done so much more than many. The message you give is truly inspirational – that if you really want to do something then you will find a way. Good luck with everything for the future … I am sure you probably have some more things on your wish list! 🙂

    • dalecooper57

      March 26, 2015 at 13:43

      Thank you Penny, I shall pass your message on to Oly.

  4. Ian Cochrane

    July 27, 2015 at 22:59

    just came across this post Dale. sounds like a great guy.
    quite something!

    • dalecooper57

      July 27, 2015 at 23:15

      He’s an amazing bloke, truly inspirational

  5. Garry Maurice

    December 17, 2015 at 11:02

    Holy shit, that is an amazing story!! Why hasn’t this gone crazy viral?? It should have thousands of likes!

    • dalecooper57

      December 17, 2015 at 11:51

      Well thank you, he’s a totally amazing guy. Feel free to share, you’re right, his story should be inspiring many others

  6. dalecooper57

    December 17, 2015 at 12:01

    Here’s the post that contains Oly’s story and the amazing tale of another friend’s miraculous medical treatment.

  7. Hannah B

    September 7, 2016 at 07:57

    Words cannot describe how proud I am to be your sister. You truly are very inspirational. Love you bro xx

  8. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    November 8, 2016 at 10:08

    This story touches my heart; you are very special and sensitive to realize that his story deserves a greater audience…. many people that know oly might ‘think’ that, but few act on thoughts like those…

    So what’s Oly doing these days?

    • dalecooper57

      November 8, 2016 at 10:15

      He’s a teaching assistant at the same school as my sister, but he also still take part in a lot of sporting events.

      • Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        November 8, 2016 at 10:24

        He probably inspires the athletes! My nephew ‘broke his back’ years ago, and he inspires me every day of my life….

  9. GP Cox

    February 27, 2017 at 18:00

    You are truly an inspiration. What carried me through to the end was that fantastic smile of yours!!

    • dalecooper57

      February 27, 2017 at 18:02

      I’ll pass your message on, thank you.


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