Thursday, September 15, 2016

Perthes Disease – It’s a Family Affair

Erraid Davies suffers from a condition called Perthes disease. Until earlier this year she was a member of GBR’s para-swimming team and had Rio on her mind. Following a classification review (and a change in how the reviews take place) Erraid lost her classification. She still suffers from the disease and she is still swimming.

To raise awareness of Perthes, Erraid’s sisters, Morven and Vhairi, are taking part in the Loch Ness Marathon and are fundraising for Perthes Association. Here’s their story:


Tell us a bit about yourselves:

Morven: I’m a third year Medical Student at the University of Edinburgh. This year I’m doing an Intercalated year in Global Health policy before doing the three clinical years to become a Doctor. I’ve wanted to be a Doctor since Primary School and worked hard to get there both academically and getting lots of voluntary work experience before going to University.

Vhairi: I’ve just completed a year at the University of the Highlands and Islands doing a National Certificate in Health and Social Care. I also did another four Highers this year, having left School at the end of fifth year. I’ve just accepted a place at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen to study for a four year Bachelor of Nursing (Hons) Degree in Adult Nursing and I can’t wait!


Living with Perthes: what do you remember about your sister’s condition?

We remember so much. Erraid's disease has shaped both our lives in a big way. When Erraid was just three, she couldn't stand up and was very distressed. We remember lots of GP and hospital appointments. When we moved to Shetland about 12 years ago Erraid saw a Paediatrician at the local Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick who gave a provisional diagnosis of Perthes Disease. Within two days Erraid was in Aberdeen at the Children's Hospital and met an Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr Gibson, who was to care for Erraid for many years and became very important to Erraid and the rest of our family.  Perthes is rare; most GP's see one case only in their entire career. The hospital was really important. 

When Erraid was in a wheelchair we simply adapted games and activities and we as a family avoided any areas, beaches etc where Erraid's chair couldn't access.

Unfortunately Erraid was subject to a bit of bullying when she was in her wheelchair so we’ve been there for her and tried to educate as many people as possible about the disease. Her friends at school and the community have been so supportive and we're very grateful.


How has swimming helped Erraid?

Morven: We started swimming when we moved to Shetland around 11 years ago. It was necessary for Erraid for physiotherapy reasons and to cope with her enormous energy.  To be honest it didn't really come naturally to me but I soon overcame my fears. Vhairi and Erraid on the other hand took to it like ducks to water. We were all soon competing off island and Vhairi and I always looked after Erraid on away trips to Inverness and then further afield.

Vhairi: Swimming helped Erraid on her way.  She developed confidence in a physical activity when she couldn't do as much as other children did. She had to do only non-weight bearing activities so as not to experience pain or aggravate her hip. She did extra swimming at the pool next door to her primary school when other children did PE.

She watched the Paralympics when she was six years old and said she wanted to do that. When Ellie Simmonds, at thirteen, got medals at her first Paralympics Erraid was glued to the screen. Erraid cried in the pool as a little girl, took out her frustration, exercised her hip and was in Primary One beating all her classmates with her remarkable swimming ability. The manager of the pool, Lynette Laurenson, was always on Erraid's side and when she was just six Erraid swam a mile for a swimming badge. Her costume was soon full of badges and the rest as they say is history.  


How is Erraid?

While she was very upset about losing her classification she has been cheering on her former team-mates and friends competing in Rio from the sofa. That will never change. She made such close friends and they’ve all been brilliant.

She’s a straight-A student and she is of course still swimming and will be competing at local and national champs in the year ahead. She also wants to try open water swimming! She is going to travel less this year though as it is such an important year at school and she wants to do well to get into the best University she can.


Why are you running the Loch Ness Marathon?

Vhairi: I’m quite sporty and I first heard of Marathons, I think it was from seeing them on television, I said when I was old enough I would do a Marathon for Erraid and to raise money for research into her condition.

The Perthes Society are the organisation that we as a family relied on from the very beginning for information and support. They struggle for funding and right now are having to cut back on what they provide. I soon roped in Morven and the Loch Ness Marathon came around at the right time for us.

We know Erraid will never run or walk a Marathon so we are walking it for Erraid to show her just how much welove her and to raise awareness. We have travelled Erraid's journey with her and enjoyed her highs and suffered her lows, we are very proud of everything she has achieved so far, and will continue to achieve going forward.


How is training for it going?

Morven: Training to be honest has been a challenge. I’m  having to train in the middle of Edinburgh and with the demands of University and work it’s not easy. But I’ve worked at it and my goal is just to get around the course; I’ve no ambition to get a certain time, I just want to enjoy doing it with my sister.  

Vhairi: I’ve been going to the gym over the winter and training around the narrow single tracks around the west side of Shetland where I live. I run alone and would have preferred to have trained with Morven. During a recent family holiday in Yorkshire we did get to go out running together and really enjoyed it.

Link to the donation page:

The Baxters Loch Ness Marathon & Festival of Running takes place on 25 September 2016. We wish Morven and Vhairi the very best of luck. We’re sure Erraid will be there to cheer them on.

To make a donation please click on the link below

Morven and Vhairi’s JustGiving Page