Olivia's story - cycling after meningitis

Cycling gives Olivia independence and confidence

Olivia's story - cycling after meningitis

Olivia contracted meningitis when she was two years old and had her lower legs and left arm amputated. She struggled to keep up with her friends who could cycle, but with the help of inclusive cycling centre, Watchtree Wheelers, she's now riding her own bike.

Olivia first visited the Watchtree Wheelers with her mum in September 2012. They were looking to buy a trike so that she could go out cycling with her friends. On the first day, she tried a number of different adapted cycles, including trikes and four wheelers. Olivia was able to control the trike with just one hand and she was soon zooming around the car park grinning from ear to ear. Pedalling with her prosthetic legs wasn’t a problem, so could she pedal a standard two-wheeled bike?

At the next session, after a quick warm-up on one of the trikes, they worked towards cycling a two-wheeled bike. At first, a balance bike (without pedals or chain) was tried to see if she could scoot along but Olivia had a hard time steering it with one hand. It became obvious that the bike would need to be adapted so that she could reach the handlebar with her amputated arm without having to bend over.

Cycling has given her independence and confidence to go out and interact with other local kids.

Kimberley Brown, Olivia's mum

Ryan Dobson of Watchtree Wheelers soon came up with a solution. He was able to use a piece of foam strapped onto the handlebar so that Olivia could press her forearm into the foam to control the steering and still sit upright. With the adaptations made and the brakes switched over so that she could operate the back brake, she was soon gliding along without touching the ground for 10 metres or more. Balancing wasn’t going to be a problem but the next obstacle was pedalling.

After a great deal of dedication and practice, Olivia continued to improve and, at a later session, she managed to put her second foot onto the pedal. With a little wobble, she was off. Her mum urged her to keep pedalling and Ryan jogged alongside her, ready to catch if needed. Olivia screamed with joy, “I’m doing it, I’m doing it!” and, “Don’t cry mummy!”

Olivia is now riding her adapted bike with her friends. As she grows, she’ll continue to need alterations to the bike but that won’t stop her. She is now a much more confident rider.

I feel normal, the same as everybody else. I feel included with my friends more and that makes me happy.

Olivia

Olivia’s mum Kim says: “Previously, Olivia has felt left out when her friends go off on their bikes and she hasn’t been able to keep up on foot or on her scooter. On her bike she can go further, and faster, without effort. It’s given her independence and confidence to go out and interact with other local kids.”

Cycling makes Olivia happy. She told Ryan: “I feel normal, the same as everybody else. I feel included with my friends more and that makes me happy.”

Watchtree Wheelers is one of over 40 Cycling UK-accredited clubs in the UK that are part of the National Inclusive Cycling Network - a partnership between Cycling UK and Cycling Projects, that is funded through the Big Lottery FundCase study by Ryan Dobson, Project Officer at Watchtree Wheelers.

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