Belfast Telegraph

She broke her spine when she gave birth... now Heather plans to swim English Channel

Heather Clatworthy and daughter Lilly after she swam from Stroove beach in Co Donegal to Portstewart
Heather Clatworthy and daughter Lilly after she swam from Stroove beach in Co Donegal to Portstewart
Heather Clatworthy
Heather Clatworthy with her husband Ian
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A Co Londonderry woman whose spine was broken during the birth of her first child is set to swim the English Channel.

Charity worker Heather Clatworthy, who is originally from Portstewart but now lives in England, will be using the experience of that pain to push herself as she crosses the Channel for charity.

Ms Clatworthy broke her spine as she gave birth to her daughter Lilly in 2010.

Weeks after the birth of her second child Basil in 2014, the injury reoccurred.

However, it was the feeling of isolation that will forever mark the mother-of-two as doctors did not confirm she had fractured her back until months after the birth of Lilly.

Simple tasks such as lifting her infant daughter out of her Moses basket became unbearable.

"They told me that I had likely pulled a muscle while breastfeeding and sent me back home with painkillers, which I was unable to take due to their side effects," Ms Clatworthy said.

"I will always remember my worst day. I tried to lift the car seat with my daughter in it from the pram to the car.

"It was pouring with rain and after attempting multiple angles I ended up on all fours, desperately trying to shelter Lilly from the rain, seeking help from a random passer-by."

Ms Clatworthy returned to her doctor but her pain was again dismissed as muscular.

It wasn't until months later when she finally had a scan which confirmed she had fractured her spine and developed osteoporosis.

Just weeks after giving birth to her second child, Ms Clatworthy broke her spine a second time during a jog and was told that she would have to take painkillers for the rest of her life.

The self-confessed 'adrenaline junkie' decided to manage her spine through fitness and in 2016 became the first swimmer in almost 90 years to swim the 13-mile stretch between Stroove beach in Co Donegal and Portstewart.

Now the 37 year-old plans to swim the English Channel in aid of The British Horse Society.

"Plunging myself into freezing cold water can be quite challenging, especially during the winter, but for me the hardest thing is fitting in the time to train while working full-time and being a mother of two young children," she said.

"But after a few hours I forget about all that and just feel grateful that I can still enjoy training while keeping my spine healthy at the same time."

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