In March 1966, when I was born with OA/TOF and a heart problem, it didn’t look like I would grow up at all, but thanks to a very good GP I was taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital and operated on at three days old.
At that time the operation on such a young baby was not easy but thankfully it went well, and after a number of dilatations, I returned home after 12 weeks.
I had to take my time, sit up straight, chew my food well and have a drink to wash everything down. This is easier said than done as a baby, toddler, child, and teenager.
Getting food stuck was a regular occurrence, but to me it was normal. I could see it upset my parents when food got stuck, but it did not bother me that much. I could always manage to clear it, even if it took a day or two, and if not, the hospital would clear it and stretch my oesophagus (I can remember three or four stretches up until I was 16).
There seemed to be very little follow up in those days and getting doctors who knew what was happening was very difficult. We were very lucky as, when I was seven, we found that the doctor from GOSH, Prof David Young, who had operated on me, had also moved up to Scotland. From then on, we had very little problem getting the help I needed.’
As a child I represented Scotland at Judo, taking advantage of my small size. By the time I was 20, I had been parachuting, had a glider pilot licence, was qualified as a sub aqua club diver and was a qualified mountain leader. I then concentrated on climbing and mountaineering, going all over the UK and parts of Europe, rock and ice climbing.
I got married in 1991 to Laurence, a French student I met through the climbing club, and we had two children.
Now the children are older, I have gone back to the hills, and started trail and hill running. I have competed in the Scottish hill racing Bog and Burn Series, finishing 22nd overall in 2019, 4th in my age group.
I have always tried to make the best of what I have.
There are still times when I get chest infections or have a little difficulty eating (it’s easier if I have soft food), but I try to keep positive and enjoy pushing myself as far as I can at whatever I am doing.
TOFS have helped me to educate myself about my condition and for the first time I met others who are also going through life with OA/TOF.
I know everyone has different experiences and are not always as lucky as I have been, but it is so nice to see the help and support that is now available, and I would advise everyone to learn as much as they can about their condition.