Quest for the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics
My vision and journey
My name is Callum Deboys, I am a single left leg above the knee amputee and I am looking for your help. I am currently training with the GB Para Nordic team to become a cross country sit skier. I have written my story and would very much appreciate it, if you took the time out of your busy schedule to have a read of it.
My story so far
My name is Callum Deboys. I am 22 years old from Kirkmichael, which is a small village near Ayr around 35 miles from Glasgow, Scotland.
I have always been a hardworking, self-motivated person, able to dedicate myself to a task but always looking forward to my next adventure. I particularly like to be outdoors and am rarely happier than when surrounded by beautiful countryside. Throughout my school years, I was heavily involved in a wide variety of sports. I enjoyed cycling, walking, fishing and hill walking. I also played rugby and rode motocross bikes.
After leaving school I went to college to study Aeronautical Engineering. While studying I worked as a chef in the evenings. No longer enjoying my course at college, I decided to take up cooking full time. I was very fortunate to be offered a job on the Isle of Skye to pursue my cooking career at a 2-Rosette hotel, following which I took on a job in a Michelin star kitchen.
However, after suffering from some mental health issues, I decided to come back to the mainland and get a job closer to home. I managed to secure a position as a Pastry Chef de Partie at Trump Turnberry Resort, where I had been working for 18 months before I had my accident.
Whilst travelling to work in June 2017, I was involved in very serious road traffic collision. Due to the severity of my injuries, I was sedated at the roadside and airlifted to hospital. On arrival, I was immediately put through the CT scanner. The scan showed that I had broken both legs, had a ruptured diaphragm and various other serious injuries.
In short, I was very lucky to be alive. Without the air ambulance and exceptional first-response care, I would not be. I was immediately rushed into theatre for over 20 hours of surgery. Following my surgery, I was put into an induced coma for my own safety. The bone in my left leg had broken so badly that it had severed an artery, which resulted in an above knee amputation 5 days later. I had no knowledge of my injuries or that I was getting my leg amputated until I woke from my coma 3 weeks later. My family bore the brunt of this trauma on my behalf.
After waking from my coma, I was given the news about my amputation and my other injuries I had suffered and, as you can imagine, those first few days of realisation were very difficult for me. I found myself feeling very low, wondering what my life could possibly be like going forward.
However, after taking some time to consider my position, I realised that this terrible accident actually had the potential to be a blessing – but only if I approached it with the right mind-set and accepted the guidance and support I was being offered. Spending the next month in hospital, I had a lot of time to think about my next move. I very quickly knew that I wanted to pursue a future in sport.
Following my hospital release, I was taken to WestMARC (West of Scotland Mobility and Rehabilitation Centre). WestMARC serves a population of approximately 2.6 million people and has in excess of 42,000 active wheelchair and prosthetic patients. This is where I spent the next 10 months receiving intense physiotherapy and learning to walk again. Rather than being morbidly depressing, I found this period in my life was very exciting.
I was finally getting back up on my feet (or foot I guess I should say now).
It took around a month of strenuous physio before the swelling had gone down enough for me to be fitted with my first prosthetic leg and I spent the next few months learning to walk on it. Starting by walking in between parallel bars, then using walking sticks and finally using no walking aids. The most difficult part of the whole process was trusting a leg which was made of metal and plastic rather than muscle, nerves and bone.
My outstanding physiotherapists, Kendra and Joanne, came up with a routine for myself and a few other amputees that we could do whilst still continuing to learn to walk. This spurred me on further to continue fitness training at home when I wasn’t in therapy. I was fortunate and I worked extraordinarily hard. I quickly achieved a good level of walking and decided I wanted to start more strength and conditioning training in order to regain some of the fitness I had lost after wasting away in hospital for so long.
One Friday afternoon Scott Meenagh, a British Paralympian, came in and took a group of us walking around the hospital grounds to get used to different types of terrain. Scott had lost both his legs in the army but has fought back to represent both himself and his country at the highest level of s
Scott helped me realise that my injuries may have been life threatening but they were not life- ending. There is no doubt that they were life changing – but I had the opportunity to make that a life-change for the better.
After leaving hospital I wanted, in some small way, to repay the doctors and nurses of the Intensive Care Unit who had helped to save my life. I was able to do this in part by holding a quiz and games night in our local village hall. We managed to fill the venue and our small, rural community raised £5000. Having spent many weeks of a sweltering summer in the Intensive Care Unit, I knew that staff and patients were in real need of a way to stay cool. I understood the discomfort of being trapped in a bed in a claustrophobic, uncomfortable environment. I used the money to buy enough Dyson Fans for every single bed in the Glasgow ICU to have one for personal use. When I told Dyson what I wanted them for, they most generously donated an additional 25% more fans to my order.
More recently, I was proud to complete the full 10-mile ‘Tough Mudder’ Obstacle course amongst able- bodied athletes, raising £1000 for the limb loss charity ‘Finding Your Feet’, who change the lives of amputees every single day. ‘Finding Your Feet’ was set-up by an amazing, inspiring and very strong woman called Corinne Hutton, who is a quadruple amputee.
Meeting people like Scott and Corinne helped spur me on to find my next challenge – made me realise that the more I can achieve, the more opportunity I will have to inspire other people who may have found it more difficult than me to adjust.
I had been looking for sports that not only interested me, but that also got me excited. The same one kept coming up again and again: Rowing. I approached Castle Semple rowing club at Lochwinnoch and they recommended that I went to the rowing centre at Strathclyde Park, near Glasgow where I met head-coach John Blair and his coaching team Dave, Paul, Sarah and all the veterans and serving members of Help for Hero’s.
This was one of the best moves I had made since my accident. For the following five months, I trained hard twice a week, rowing till exhausted and lifting weights to increase my level of fitness. I worked hard, in an environment where hard work is only one factor: mind-set, commitment, understanding, desire and honesty count for just as much
Through my contacts at Strathclyde Rowing Club I was extraordinarily lucky. I was given the opportunity to join Scott Meenagh and the Armed Forces Para Snow Sports Team, where I met head-coach Simon Allanson and therest of the team to go Cross-Country Sit-Skiing for a week’s taster in Germany. This is a form of skiing where skiers rely on their own locomotion to move along snow covered terrain. We do this seated, propelling ourselves with our arm and upper-body strength alone. Our success relies upon strength, stamina, lung-capacity and a finite sense of balance. In the mornings, we spent 2 hours in the snow tunnel and then in the afternoon we spent 2 hours roller skiing or in the gym lifting weights. I instantly fell in love with the sport of sit-skiing and have since been on two more training camps. We had another camp in Germany and a hot weather camp in Florida, where we roller skied for over 330km. I am now looking forward to one more training camp, before we go to compete for Great Britain on the world cup circuit of 2018/2019.
I was now ready to go competing for Great Britain for the first time, the destination being Vuokatti in Finland.
I had three Cross-Country races to compete in which consisted of a distance of 7.5km, 5km and 1km. With each race my times were getting faster and I was feeling more comfortable in the sit ski rig. To be able to compete at the World Championships in February I had to secure a result that was 30% from bronze or better. I just missed out on the magic number in the 7.5km race where I finished 22nd. I managed to secure my first result 30% from bronze in the 5km race where I placed 21st which gave me 10 world cup points. The final race of the Vuokatti world cup was the 1km sprint which I managed to finish 25th and only 15% behind the time of bronze.
Following a very successful World Cup in Vuokatti, we were now looking forward to the Ostersund World Cup in Sweden. The course was very technical and involved a lot of hill climbs, it was a massive test for all of the training that I had completed over the past 6 months. The field was very small and consisted of the very top athletes, it was amazing to get in amongst them and learn from the best in the sport. We had Cross Country races consisting of a distance of 15km, 6km and 1km. I managed to secure a result of 12th in the 15km, 11th in the 6km and 9th in the 1km Sprint, unfortunately missing the qualification time for the semi-final by only 1 second. I also competed in 2 Biathlon races, the 15km and mixed relay. The biathlon races where a great introduction to a new skill in a race scenario. I was extremely proud of all my times around the course and where I finished in the field.
I am now looking forward to the Prince George World Championships in Canada this coming February. I am really excited to get back out on the snow and further prove myself on an even bigger world stage.
The team who have introduced me to the sport tell me that I have the potential to become a Paralympic sit- skier and I believe I can dedicate myself to getting there. However, they also tell me that I need to find people who can support me in my efforts.
So far, I have funded all of my training and equipment from my savings and my sponsors detailed on my webpage. However, I cannot afford to do this alone much longer, and I need assistance to continue. I need more funds to pay for training, travel, accommodation and coaching; I need resources- food, clothing, transport, sports equipment, training facilities; and I need support – mentors, coaches, advice. To compete in the 2019/2020 season’s World Cup skiing circuit and to be able to attend all the necessary training camps I will need to raise approximately £30,000.
Can you help me? I am looking for people and organisations willing to provide support in any way possible.
However, I realise this is not a one-way street. Although I am not a professional motivator, public speaker or celebrity, if you are able to help me in any way with finance, resources, equipment or support I will do whatever I can to support your organisation in return.
I have been blessed with a huge amount of support to date and I will never underestimate (or fail to be grateful for) the effort that others have put into my rehabilitation.
Thank you for taking the time to read part of my story.
For more pictures you can visit my Instagram page @deboysc @gbparanordic
Vuokatti, Finland 2018
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