Shotley Gate teenager embracing life after beating rare condition

Sam Ford and sister, Niamh.

Sam Ford and sister, Niamh. - Credit: Archant

A 15-year-old boy who once could not walk up the stairs because of a rare medical condition is finally leading the life of a happy and active teenager.

Emma Ford, Sam Ford and Jonathan Waters.

Emma Ford, Sam Ford and Jonathan Waters. - Credit: Archant

Three years ago, Sam Ford, of Shotley Gate, sprained a tendon in his foot during a cross country run at his school’s sports day.

Over a period of six months, the pain he felt in his foot spread to his entire body to the point that could not even be touched because it was “unbearable”.

It was at this stage that he was diagnosed with ME, known as chronic fatigue syndrome, and Regional Chronic Pain Syndrome, a condition in which a person experiences persistent severe and debilitating pain.

This on top of the Extreme Hypermobility Syndrome that he had battled since a child, meant Sam had to drop out of Holbrook Academy in 2012 to be home-schooled and live under constant care of his dedicated mum, Emma Ford.

Sam Ford.

Sam Ford. - Credit: Archant

From there, Sam endured two-and-a-half years of medication, treatment and physiotherapy – all failing to ease his pain.

However, after his plight was first documented in the Ipswich Star in January last year, health and wellbeing provider The Rowan Centre offered Sam a free three-day programme at its Leiston base to commence in May.

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Sam saw positive changes instantly and by day two, he asked his mum if he could run with their husky Shadow, a moment that she admits still brings tears to her eyes. By the end of the course Sam said he felt better than he did before he was diagnosed with the conditions.

As Sam continued to flourish, the family packed the May half-term with as much as they could – visits to beaches, parks, stately homes – things that the teenager was told he would never be able to experience.

“With this new found energy and health he got more frustrated at being stuck at home,” Ms Ford said. “It was great, the dog got walked every night and the washing up got done – all these things, bearing in mind he couldn’t even stand for more than 10 minutes, each one was miraculous.”

Missing school from Year 9 to half-way through Year 11, Ms Ford, 40, was left fearing for Sam’s social development. Sam started to gradually reintroduce himself into lessons through June and July and by September, he was back at school five-days-a-week.

“There’s me worrying and there was no problem whatsoever,” Ms Ford said. “It was almost like this really shy, little boy who had not developed a huge social platform, had a few small close friends, went away and blossomed into this tall, confident person.”

In December, Sam took his mock GCSEs and after just four months of learning the bright youngster achieved mostly A*s.

“There was never a time when we accepted it, we kept fighting to find a cure,” Ms Ford added. “And I think that will stay with him for life, that’s his personality, it’s set in stone that he will keep on persevering.”

Two weeks ago, Ms Ford and her partner Jonathan Waters, 51, took Sam and his siblings, Jack, 13, Niamh, 10, Riona, nine, and Mr Water’s 17-year-old daughter, Hollie, on their first holiday in four years to Norfolk where Sam was able to run with his little sisters on his shoulders.

With his GCSE results due in August, Sam has been accepted to Northgate Sixth Form to study maths, physics, computing and economics and has already set his sights on university.

“I know nothing is going to hold him back now because he knows if he can get over something like that when he is young then anything life throws at him is going to be doable,” Ms Ford said. “He’s got a real determination and drive now, more so than any other teenager I know.”

Steve Fawdry, co-founder of The Rowan Centre, explained Sam was taught strategies and techniques to help his brain and body switch off the stress response and allow the proper regulation of pain messages and endorphins.

“He picked things up very quickly and in three days he was back riding his bike and he was more able to be a big brother to his siblings and he felt really good about that because they had been very supportive,” he added.

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