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PARALYMPICS: Honour for torchbearers
DAD-of-two Dave Bracher was struck down by a rare combination of two illnesses in 2008, that left him locked inside his own body.
The Didcot father was in a coma for 12 days and moving his eyes was his only means of communicating with the outside world for a month.
But after 42 days in intensive care and a month on the neurology ward, he gradually started regaining control over his upper body.
Three years later, he became the first non-elite wheelchair user to take part in the London marathon after campaigning for the organisers to allow people using standard wheelchairs to take part.
And early tomorrow morning, he will carry the Paralympic Torch on its way to London.
The 44-year-old said: “I’m chuffed to bits and really excited about it, it’ll be amazing. “I watched the Olympic torch come into Wallingford and the scenes there were incredible, the place was packed and I thought it was brilliant. “So to have a small part to play in the build-up to the Paralympics is brilliant.” He added: “I think the Olympics truly inspired people, not just the younger generations but the whole country. And hopefully the Paralympics can do that again.” Mr Bracher, a trustee for the Spinal Injuries Association, will carried the torch through Harrow at 3.37am.
Grandmother Ann Gresswell from Wytham has spent more than 30 years helping disabled people learn to swim.
The 62-year-old has been involved with the Oxford Swans Swimming Club since 1976, which teaches disabled people and their family members how to enjoy the water.
Tomorrow, she will carry the Paralympic torch in the city of London and said she was honoured to take part.
The grandmother-of-three said: “I’m really looking forward to it. Some of the family and my grandchildren are coming along to cheer me on. “At the club we have a very holistic approach to teaching and I still love being a part of it all. “It is good fun and getting to see people achieving so much is very rewarding. Even people with severe disabilities are able to do much more in the water, somersaults and things that other people can. It is wonderful to be part of that.” Fifteen-year-old Luke Biggs spent the first six months of his life in hospital after being born with Total Hirschsprungs disease.
In and out of hospital his whole life, he has had two bowel transplants and has spent months in isolation and recovering from associated illnesses.
But last week, the John Mason pupil won a gold medal in the Transplant Games in Medway, Kent and will also carry the torch tomorrow.
The Abingdon schoolboy said: “I’m pretty excited, my entire family is going to come and cheer me on, there’s lots and lots of them coming along.
“They said they’re proud of me. I won my first medal, a gold, in archery at the Transplant Games this week so that was great.” Luke, who will take his GCSEs next year, had three operations within weeks of his birth and spent much of his first eight years living at the John Radcliffe Hospital . But celebrating his win at the Transplant Games last week, he said life had never been better. He said: “I’m doing really well at the moment, touch wood, and can’t wait to carry the torch.” Meanwhile, a county charity that gets people with learning disabilities involved in dance is to feature in a key ceremony at the Games.
Anjali 2012 Dance Company, based at Banbury’s Mill Arts Centre, has provided two dancers for today’s flame lighting ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Aylesbury. Hannah Dempsey, from London, and Daisy Garrett, from Wiltshire, will perform contemporary dance piece “The Reflection”.
Miss Dempsey, 24, said: “It will be amazing. It is the biggest one I have done.” The charity has performed at venues including Royal Festival Hall and The Royal Opera House and in cities such as Berlin in Germany and Madrid in Spain.
Artistic director Nicole Thomson said: “We feel really privileged to be involved. It is going to be fantastic for the dancers.”
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