HELEN WOOD, 51 FROM YORKSHIRE
I was able bodied as a child and played all sports. Team sports were my main love - hockey tennis, badminton and rounders. Once I left school, I played basketball to a decent standard. It was then, in my late teens that I started to have problems health wise. I was in and out of hospital for over three years. Regardless of what was going on with me medically, the thought of having to give up playing basketball was devastating. Eventually I was diagnosed with Hemi-Dystonia, which is a neurological condition which affects my left side. I became a wheelchair user age 21.
From hospital, I went into rehab to try to learn how to live with my disability and it was there that I met Phil. I told him all about my love of sport and in particular Basketball and he suggested I tried Wheelchair Basketball. I did and loved it. I joined a club, played and trained regularly and actually went on to represent Great Britain from 1986 to 1992.
Sadly, my health then deteriorated further and I could no longer play due to the amount of contact involved. It was heart breaking. I went back into rehab and it was there that I met my now husband, Barry. On our first weekend away together, we went to a Hotel complex where they happened to have an indoor bowls green. I loved it and was immediately hooked. It was exactly what I needed. So, when we got back home, we found out where our local indoor club was and went down to play. From here, I haven’t looked back. I was the first wheel chair user to reach the EIBA national finals and have now got my England Cap for Disability Bowls England. I have also trialled with the women’s indoor team.
Bowls has genuinely given me a life and helps me to focus on the things I can do rather than the things that I can’t. I have always been a competitive person, I find that competition gives me a purpose and it drives me. As I don’t work, bowls has also been important from a social interaction perspective as it means when I am at my club (York & District IBC), I am meeting and engaging with different types of people.
I think more women should play bowls because it’s a safe environment where every one is welcoming and you can choose what level you want to play at as well as play as much or as little as you want. It has a great social side and is not daunting even if like me, you are shy.