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Dylan's dream of Paralympic glory as drive begins to get him a racing wheelchair

By Leona O'Neill

A sports-mad schoolboy who was paralysed after a fall from a tree has set his sights on Paralympic glory.

Dylan Wade suffered catastrophic spinal injuries after dropping 20ft in St Columb's Park in Londonderry last May.

In the hours that followed the accident the 15-year-old's life teetered on the edge as surgeons battled to save his heart, which had been pierced on impact.

A year on, and back at school studying for his GCSEs, Dylan's PE teacher at St Joseph's Boys' School in Creggan, Emmett McGinty, was so inspired by the youngster's courage and determination he has set about raising money to purchase a special racing wheelchair that would allow Dylan to race competitively again.

Dylan, from the Brandywell in Derry, has come a long way from the boy in the hospital bed who was told he would never walk again.

"I went for a walk one day with my friends over to St Columb's Park," he said.

"We were just mucking about. I saw a tree and I wanted to climb up it. It was a bit high up and I was on my way down and slipped on a branch and fell on my back.

"All I can remember is just looking up to the sky. I didn't feel any pain, I wasn't scared. I was just numb."

Mum Nina said she was still haunted by the call she received on the day that changed their lives forever.

"My phone rang on an ordinary day and the voice said what happened," she recalled.

"We rushed over to the hospital and saw him lying there. They had cut his clothes off. I had to be pulled back from him, I was in hysterics.

"They told me to send for the rest of the family, that they were very, very concerned about his heart. They thought there was a piercing and that there was blood coming from it.

"They kept him there for seven hours to stabilise him and took him to the Royal Victoria Hospital via ambulance at 11pm.

"I couldn't even go in the ambulance with him. I had to follow behind as I was too nervous and I wanted him to keep calm."

Dylan was taken to theatre and then on to intensive care to recover, where it was discovered that a bone in his spine was also causing problems and he was rushed to theatre again.

He was brave and he was strong and he pulled through.

But this was just the beginning of the young man's journey.

Dylan spent six weeks recovering from the accident at the Royal before being moved to Musgrave Park Hospital for rehabilitation.

He said it was during this recovery that he gradually realised he would never walk again.

"I was in the hospital ward, just laying about watching TV," he said.

"One day they came in with a wheelchair and asked me did I want to get out of bed. I was delighted. I got into the wheelchair and we went out.

"That's when I first realised that this could be it for me. They didn't say anything outright, they just kept asking did I want to get into the chair."

Nina said that, a year on, she still finds it hard to accept he will never walk again.

"He was doing physio for a while and there was no movement in his legs. The doctors said then that he was paralysed.

"I couldn't accept that. Dylan didn't know. They didn't want to tell him out straight, but let him realise gradually.

"A year on and I am still really struggling to accept it still. Dylan is so independent and brave. He gives me strength. I just take each day as it comes and do our best. It is very hard."

Dylan said he tried to stay positive, but he dearly wanted to get back to the competitive sport he loved so much before his mobility was cruelly snatched from him.

"I just look at this situation as if I wasn't in a chair," he added.

"I say to myself I can do as much as anyone else can who is standing up. The only thing I can't do is walk.

"I was always competitive. Before the accident I was a runner. I loved it and a few weeks before the accident I did a 5k race in about 20 minutes.

"My PE teacher is raising money to buy me a special racing wheelchair. The wheelchair racing is more or less running, except you are in the chair.

"The wheels are tilted, there's a smaller wheel at the front and it has a special lever you operate for taking bends.

"I went up last month to try the chair out. We were at Mary Peters' Track in Belfast. I got into it and away I went. It was just amazing to be racing again.

"Hopefully some day I will be able to compete in the Paralympics. I know it will take years of practice.

"I go to the gym twice a week to train and I do 200m sprints in the chair. The new chair will help me reach this dream.

"I really appreciate my PE teacher raising money for the chair. It's great to think that there are people around me who support me and believe in my dream too.

"With life I just try to stay strong and stay positive.

"It would be easy to be lazy and just sit there and get down about it. There's no point in doing that. You just have to get on with it.

"I've been to Hell and back, if I can do it, anyone can do it. I think I'm a stronger person because of this.

"If I had any advice for people it would be not to take anything for granted in life, because it can change in an instant."

  • Dylan's school has organised a funding drive to get him his racing wheelchair. To donate to the campaign, log on to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/emmett-mcginty

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