Och Aye Canoe - My background (Part 1)

Och Aye Canoe - My background (Part 1)

I am often asked why and how I started Och Aye Canoe, so have decided to write a blog about my journey!

Let's start with my background...

I have always been someone who has been interested in the outdoors, at school I was on the hockey, tennis and rounders teams, and I also tried my hand at sailing and canoeing.  I achieved my Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Awards (I even managed to push myself to play my violin at a performance straight after an expedition despite hardly being able to walk due to the blisters I had!). I'm quite a determined person too, I remember pushing hard through a load of mud to win the school bike race, and then cycling 20 miles or so as a teenager to raise money for a charity (that was far back then!).

After school I went on to study at St Andrews University, where I have a BSc degree in Geography & Geoscience.  I graduated the year Wills arrived (my Dad likes to say 'should have been our Sarah' whenever he sees Kate!).

At university I had several reminders that I was there to study when I was away parachuting (I've done 3 solo jumps), gliding, karting, rock climbing, canoeing, etc, etc!

When I was 20 years old I successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, at just over 19,000ft.  

I also spent some time serving in the Territorial Army and was selected for officer training, gaining a place at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.   I learnt many skills during my time in the TA, I was in the Scottish Transport Regiment of the Royal Logistics Corps, so I have my Class 1 HGV licence amongst other things!  I've also flown in a Chinook helicopter with a Landrover dangling down in a net below which was pretty cool!

I was regularly rock-climbing with friends and enjoying the outdoors.

Then things took a turn... 

When I was 22 years old I had a muscle development problem in my left leg which led to me having a trapped leg artery.  Life came to a sudden stop for me, as I was unable to walk due to the severe pain in my leg.  I actually ended up with a blue disabled badge.   I had to turn down my place at Sandhurst and stop all activities.  

After many hospital scans and meetings, and a high risk of having my leg amputated above the knee if things didn't go to plan, I had a 6-hour operation to have a Femoral-Popliteal bypass to my leg.  In short, one of the veins was taken out my right leg and put in my left leg to carry the blood around the trapped section of artery.   I spent nearly 2 weeks in hospital, and had to have a lot of physio to help me walk again.

I felt like I'd been given a second chance at life and after a couple of years of very hard work I got my fitness level back up. I could no longer rock climb, however decided I could pursue my love of canoeing as this sport didn't rely on your legs as much.

Tune in for my next blog to find out what happened next!


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