Elaine's DSUK Diary:

Not sure where to start with this but I wanted to highlight to you the impact of me learning to ski over the past eighteen months.

Back in November 2019 I turned 50!! There was research carried out by Glasgow university 6 years ago that concluded that there was no one in Scotland walking and working full time with Cerebral Palsy at age 50, well I thankfully broke that statistic.

I have been fortunate to have been able to participate in many activities such as riding for the disabled(33 years) and learning to fly( flying scholarship for the disabled in 2018) but the highlight for me in the last year has been learning to ski.

I have had a particularly difficult year following my husband’s cancer diagnosis and a couple of bad falls myself. Learning to ski was way out of my comfort zone and was something that really scared me. From the beginning DSUK have provided me with the opportunity to overcome that fear and take part in something I really enjoy. The instructors have put me at ease and encouraged me to progress and enjoy skiing.  My left hemiplegia means I have poor balance, muscle spasms and limited control over my left side. I expected to be on a sit ski and sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realise, I am standing and skiing. I use a link to connect the skis and have tethers that allow my instructor to control my speed.  I did however enjoy my shot in a sit ski and it was made even better as I was alongside Jill Clark who I know from Riding for the Disabled and Cerebral Palsy Scotland.

A significant part of this progress has been down to the skill, professionalism and creative thinking from my instructor Kieron Blake. Finding suitable ski boots has been particularly challenging and I’m grateful to Kieron for helping me to find the new Atomic rear entry boots. He has been solutions focused at every step from working out ways to get me on and off the lift and creating ways of me being more aware of my poorly functioning left side. He has found ways for me to maximise the movement I have and connect it all up to my wonky brain ability. This has enabled me to use my left side in ways that has not been possible previously. It was good to have my physio Kenny Thoms from Neuro physio Scotland join my on the slopes in November with ski school manager Shaun Murphy.

I have also gained more confident generally and I’m sure that’s down to learning to learning to ski. Kieron’s encouragement and input has been amazing not only in helping me but also my husband and daughter. He has taught me to that it’s ok to fall you just need to stand up afterwards. For the first time ever, we have been able to participate in a sport together as a family.

I have been blown away by the impact of learning to ski. I am an accountant by day (Audit Scotland Associate Director of Audit Quality and Appointments) and usually write reports on areas for improvement but I’m struggling to identify any in relation to my skiing lessons.

DSUK ski trip to Andorra – 23 February 2020

After having so much fun on the slopes at Braehead  in Glasgow I decided that I would like to tackle bigger mountains .

 Having input from Kieron and Shaun on a suitable DSUK holiday for me was extremely valuable and was reassuring in terms of what I could cope with and manage. It was a bonus that Kieron would be joining us on the trip.

My daughter Jenna came along on the holiday too. The resort was lovely and easy for me to get around. The hotel was perfect as it was close to the gondola and had great facilities for us to enjoy.

I was a bit nervous about meeting my fellow skiers and helpers. They were amazing,we all encouraged one another and for me as someone fairly new to the sport it was good to see the experienced skiers and how professional they were.   I wasn’t aware of the awards ceremony and thought it was a fantastic way of us celebrating one another’s achievements.

It was challenging keeping my balance on and off the lift and getting down the slopes. The runs were so much longer than the indoor slope in Glasgow! It was however the most incredible experience going down the slopes. The distance covered and the feeling of speed with the sun shining on us was amazing, I think my smile in the pictures says it all! We were so lucky that the weather allowed us to ski for three hours every day.

My skiing and independence improved over the week. Jenna was able to take over on the tethers and control me during the trip, I’m sure she enjoyed taking control of her Mum!  The circulation and movement in my leg improved significantly.My ankle is usually like an ice block, but I have acquired better circulation since my skiing trip.  It has also given me the motivation to continue to make progress and I hope to do this when lessons resume in Glasgow.

If anyone is thinking on a DSUK holiday I would highly recommend it as apart from the great skiing experience Jenna and I had lots of fun. Jenna and I have had a tough year so it were good to laugh and for me there was something in thereabout its ok to be disabled, participate in sport and most of all have fun.

The activities at the local pub pub were memorable and it was great to see everyone participating in the quiz and music challenge and most of all enjoying themselves. Not sure what to say about the dancing, it was energetic and unique!The DSUK staff (Cesca, Mark, Keiron and Duncan) supported and encouraged us on our trip along with the amazing volunteers from TUI and Crystal holidays.
So a huge thanks from me in helping me to achieve something that felt way out of my reach. A special mention to Kieron too for his amazing and exceptional talent in teaching me to ski and building confidence around what I can do. The impact on my well-being and ability to cope with new challenges has moved to anew and exciting level. I hope that my husband, daughter and I will be able to goon a skiing trip together in the future as that would be the icing on the cake.

I am really, really missing my skiing lessons and hope it won’t be long until I am back on the slopes again.

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