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Mum raises money for rugby club which gave her back independence

Sally Sycha wearing her rugby gear
Sally Sycha wearing her rugby gear Image credit: justgiving.com

A Berkshire mother starved of oxygen during her second pregnancy is raising money for a local wheelchair rugby club who helped put her back on the road to recovery.

Sally Sycha, from Wokingham, was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome at the age of 31.

After giving birth to her second child Sycha started to suffer serious symptoms related to her newly discovered conditions, it wasn’t long until she was unable to stand for longer than a few minutes and relied on a wheelchair if venturing outdoors.

Sally told Berkshire Live: “I lost all my independence. For a very long time I couldn’t do anything without having someone taking me there. My mum had to take me to hospital appointments because she had to push my wheelchair. That was difficult to have to deal with. That level of loss of independence.”

Mrs Sycha, now 36, went on to explain how her family has seen her through the illness and how she would be lost without them.

“My mum, my dad and my step-mum have been amazing. They have stepped into be carers when my husband is working. I don’t know what we would have done over the last five years without their constant support,” Sally said.

“It’s been very isolating as well – naturally most of my friends at the time were people with young children because I had a young child. Friendships fizzled out because who has the time to dedicate to a friend who has become disabled when you’ve got a child to chase around?

“I don’t want to say it rules my life, but everything I do is dictated by medication, timings and when I need to eat, fitting in my physio. I can only ride on days when my husband picks up the children, I can’t ride on a day if I have to pick up the children because then I might not be well enough to get them.”

Sally, determined not to allow her disabilities control her life, took up wheelchair rugby by joining a local club called Berkshire Banshees.

She said: “Rugby really made me feel more confident to do things independently. It sort-of made me feel like I had the right to exist in the world still, even though I’m sat down.

“All of my consultants are up in London and so I travel there quite a bit. I used to have to take my mum with me, or take some childcare because I’d have my youngest.

“Once I joined rugby it just really boosted me and, prior to Covid, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid about going to London on my own. I would go to the aquarium or the London Eye on my own so the trip wasn’t just about the hospital.

“It would be utterly exhausting but the confidence to do it was there.”         

It’s not only scoring try’s which has boosted Sally spirits, joining the club has also seen her form new friendships with people in a similar position as herself.

She said: “It has been a community and friendships but equal-level friendships, because people in society don’t really know how to react around a disabled person. I was probably equally ignorant before becoming disabled. They generally shy away from interactions with disabled people because they don’t know what to say, or they pity them.

“Rugby is all on the same level – there’s a lot of banter going on. We all have a laugh and no one ever pities – there’s support when needed, there’s always support – but it’s never pity.

“It’s more about being equals. There’s a lot of society where disabled people don’t necessarily feel like equals.”

Next on the agenda is a bike ride covering the distance Lands End to John O’Groats to buy more wheelchairs for the Banshees, she already covered 540 kilometres!

“When I’m riding, I don’t feel different to any of the other cyclists, other than that I’m lying down and I look different. I feel as independent as they are to be out exploring the countryside,” Sally said.

“My wheelchair is called Freeda because she’s my freedom and my trike is called Toothless after the dragon in ‘How to Train a Dragon’ who gives his disabled rider freedom.

“I’m doing better than I thought I would so far. I’ve had a few problems. I’ve had a few rides where I’ve had to pull over and rest to recover. I’ve had rides where I haven’t quite got my nutrition level right and haven’t felt well.

“I’ve had to get hoisted out the trike and back into the house, and then cared for like a small infant.”

She added: “It’s definitely a challenge, but I’m also feeling really proud that I’m doing as well as I am far.”

You can make a donation to Sally Sycha's cause on her JustGiving page.