In England, 18-year-old Reanne Ractoo has won multiple international climbing competitions despite being completely blind and having cerebral palsy. It is remarkable that Reanne is a climber because cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that affects the musculoskeletal system as well as fine motor function.
According to the Daily Mail, her mother Amanda found out about her daughter’s condition after going through a traumatic delivery. She explained, “All I can remember were Reanne’s screams. She was so ill and tiny, weighing in at fewer than two pounds. She was so small that I could have placed her on the palm of my hand, but as soon as the twins were born, they were taken away, so I didn’t get the chance to hold them.”
She added, “Tests revealed damage to her brain and mild cerebral palsy. She’d suffered three huge brain bleeds and I can’t even begin to describe the turmoil as each day unfolded. Although Rhys was progressing well, Reanne suffered more damage – this time to her cortex.”
Tragically, doctors told Amanda that it would be best for her to take Reanne off life support because she would have “no quality of life.” She said, “A polite and friendly doctor delivered the news. He told me her brain had been severely damaged and she would never walk, talk, dress or feed herself. She would be in a wheelchair unable to do anything. While I listened to his words, I couldn’t accept them, as ultimately he was suggesting that we switch off the life support machine. I told him as long as she is fighting please fight for her. If she gives up, we give up.”
Amanda wasn’t going to give up on her daughter and later went back to show their doctor that he was wrong about Reanne’s prognosis. Thankfully, he was thrilled that his prediction was inaccurate and said that he was delighted to see that her daughter was doing so well. However, Amanda mentioned that the doctor was also a bit troubled by the realization that his suggestion could have been a death sentence for Reanne. Amanda explained, “’I could see that he was happy, but he was also shaken. After all, his grim advice could have led to the death of the gorgeous bundle of joy that now lay before him.”
Amanda said: ‘When Reanne told me about climbing I was frightened to death! There was no way I’d stop her, but hell I was scared! After a couple of sessions I could tell she was hooked – she had found a sport with someone who knew how to teach her. I always knew she would do something sporty with her life.’
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She continued: ‘To see her clinging on to a coloured piece of rock just two inches long is incredible. ‘Her legs stretched as far as they can and her hands, white with chalk pull her body upwards. Her coordination is so precise – something I am so grateful for.’ Reanne was invited to start competing for the GB para climbing team at the world championships in Paris in 2012 and has won numerous medals since, including a silver in Chamonix at the European championships in 2013 and a bronze in Gijon 2014.
Amanda said: ‘Reanne had found her sport I am the luckiest mum in the world and tell everyone about my kids. I am now starting to think “wow I did it, we got through it”. My kids are happy, healthy and settled adults I am so very, very proud.’
In a bid to help others, Amanda has shared her and her children’s story in the inspiration book ‘If I Can Do It, You Can Too,’ by Antony Stagg.