“In May 2014 I led a very busy life. I was planning a holiday to Mexico, I was Head of Compliance for a merchant bank and in my spare time I would train in martial arts, ride a motorbike and was doing a PhD. Little did I know then that the world as I knew it, was about to come crumbling down around me. ”
In July 2014 I found myself sat in a cardiologist’s office being told that I had a vascular issue, which was resulting in a rare heart condition called Prinzmetal’s Angina. To cut a long story short, over the following two years I was really ill. I finally I saw an amazing consultant who managed to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and diagnose an underlying genetic condition. I have had it all my life, but vaccinations for Mexico triggered a massive autoimmune response. After genetic testing I was formally diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This means that my joints dislocate so easily that they can come out in my sleep or shaking hands, I fractured my spine in two places because of the hypermobility.
Fast forward two and a half years and I was trying to get use to the idea that my condition was going to get worse not better. I was in a bad place mentally but not really admitting that even to myself. I felt completely useless to society and on the scrapheap. I decided at New Year my life needed to change and that I needed to take back control. I put my business head on and I made a plan. One of those goals was that I was going to apply to a charity that I had heard about called Flying Scholarships for Disabled people. I had seen an article on an Ehlers Danlos site about a lady that had learnt to fly through FSDP. I was invited to RAF Cranwell in March for the selection process. Cranwell was an eye opening process for me in terms of where I truly was, I found it incredibly difficult to be away from home and my support network, which was not like the old me at all.
To my utter surprise I was awarded a scholarship. I felt like someone again, I was going to learn to fly! My first flight was just incredible, I was flying with Fiona and all of a sudden, she gave me control and before I knew what was happening we were full throttle down the runway and taking off. That feeling once you have climbed above the inversion and levelled out is just incredible, there is nothing quite like it and it is actually incredibly relaxing. I have a wonderful picture of me flying and my sister took one look at it and said ‘that’s I – that is my sister back!’
Learning to fly was the most incredible experience, I felt free of illness and disability for the first time in years. Since the scholarship I have restarted my PhD, have completed a course in biomedical science and started working on a book. I have also been accepting more help, this is a massive change for me. The scholarship has been fundamental in changing my perspective about my illness, don’t get me wrong, I still have the odd bad day but it is the odd day and not full years. Since the scholarship I have got my head around the fact that I can’t go back to my old life and that I need to look forward and not backward, I am starting to rebuild my new life.
To learn to fly like me apply here