A few years ago we looked at disabled sports options for Ev but there were a number of reasons why we didn't take it further. Firstly, and the main one, was that we started to look at the SDR surgery at the same time and this, the start of "Evan's Big Journey", quickly took over our time and energy - leaving only a little for extra-curriculur activity, secondly the clubs tend to be further away and have later start times which wasnt great when Ev was only 6 and already had a hectic schedule with school and physio. Finally and probably the most sensitive one to consider was that it was a bit difficult to come to terms with the fact that Evan would, at that time, almost inevitably be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life at some point. We tried not to use his chair as much as possible - even then trying to get him onto his kay-walker.
Now, he doesn't need it - yes, we use it for longer distances and he certainly will use it for a long while to come - but things are different. Much different. It feels the right time to pick it back up - of course inspired by the events of the last couple of months and what was to come with the Paralympics.
Not only was the event a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the flame for one very last time, it was also the chance to meet with Ev's SDR buddy Ben. Ben is a couple of years older than Ev, lives nearby and had travelled to St Louis a couple of weeks before us and our visits had all too briefly overlapped. However, we'd kept in touch since (again, all too briefly) and Ben is also a member of Leeds Spiders Wheelchair Basketball club who were on display at the event.
The event started with the introduction of the flame and then it was off to try all of the events. Well, that was the plan but we were quite unexpectedly asked to pose for photos with a number of people who had seen Ev on TV (including one rather elderly lady with a brand new blackberry), a local boy who is going to be one of the first to get SDR in the UK (in Leeds - Yorkshire driving the way again!), a family who had just got back from STL and also an old work colleague of mine who had come along to the event and wanted to say Hi after seeing Ev on TV (and recognising me...).
It was great to hear that (Dr Park's version of) SDR was now available in the UK but unfortunately it still needs to be funded privately rather than via the NHS. However, a small step towards SDR changing even more lives - but more work needs to be done.
None of this was unwanted and made for a very pleasant, if not surreal, experience but we then had chance to try out some of the events - as did Maya and Sam. The exhibition of Wheelchair Rugby was particularly boisterous and the Wheelchair Basketball participants were able to throw hoops much more accurately than I could. Given that Ev has been particularly inspired by Hannah Cockcroft (who makes a bid for Gold tomorrow, as I write this) it was great that he got a chance at Wheelchair racing. Let's hope for somewhere exotic in 2020 and 2024 - it would be great to attend both Paralympic and Olympic events... (no pressure, kids !!)
It was a great experience, topped off, with Ev walking a lap of the athletics track (400 metres) - walking one-handed with Loup. We just need to have a think about what he wants to try going forward.
We also had to say goodbye to another of "Team Evan Flame" - Tom had arranged much of the trip and was also a new friend we hoped to see again sometime.
Now, we could head home for a rest - but looking at the clock we realised it was past two o'clock and the kids were hungry so we headed off to a local restaurant for a special treat. As we got in the car we switched on the radio, I recognised that voice. The kids beat me to it ~ "Katherine !!!". On duty reporting from Peterborough where Leeds United were playing.
Everyone has to get back to normal at some point....