Athlete Refuses to Let Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Stop Her From Reaching Her Dreams
Claire is an inspiration to all of us. She continues to compete despite her major struggles.
By Claire Connon
I have a complicated medical history which made my life change overnight. I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles to be where I am.
In 2004, I had just started university, and joined my college rowing team. I was hooked immediately and shown to have potential.
I joined the university’s development camp, loving it and winning my first regatta. I then returned to university hoping to join the university squad, but just before term started, I was struck down with glandular fever.
This led to me becoming mostly bed-bound, unable to manage anything but the most basic tasks. I fought my way through university, and graduated.
As time progressed, I became physically worse, eventually needing to use a wheelchair full-time.
I was finally diagnosed with a rare disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. By then I had given up on ever getting back to rowing, it seemed a world away.
Whilst becoming physically worse, I developed severe problems with my digestive system. I was unable to tolerate anything orally, becoming malnourished. I received nutrition by a tube into my small bowel. This improved my life greatly.
I went to a summer fair advertising rowing, and decided that it was time to try adaptive rowing. I looked for my nearest club, sadly an hour from me. They welcomed me with open arms, and I began to start rowing as an Arms and Shoulders para-rower.
Sadly my return was short-lived, as my bowel began to fail, making me seriously ill, leading to another long stay in hospital.
This time I began to be fed intravenously, on total parenteral nutrition. After recovering my strength and becoming stable I was back in a boat, feeling really well.
I raced six weeks after my discharge and won my first race. This was followed two weeks later at the British National Championships where I came second to an experienced rower, but beating experienced rowers as well.
My success has continued this season, winning at the Marlow Regatta, and the Home International Regatta, where I also took two minutes off of my previous time there, giving me a massive PB.
I want to be a Paralympian with all my heart and mind, the first to be fed intravenously. I refuse to let my health impairment stop me from reaching my dreams.
Learn more about Claire and her promotion of EDS Awareness in her blog about rowing.
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