Move More participant Norman Todd defies health setbacks to complete adapted triathlon with help of Sean Hargan

A participant in Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Macmillan Move More programme who lost a limb after a farm accident five years ago has defied a series of health setbacks by completing an adapted triathlon challenge at the Derg Valley Leisure Centre.

Norman Todd from the townland of Fyfin near Victoria Bridge injured both his legs in November 2018 and his right leg was eventually amputated.

The 69 year-old father of one was told he may never walk again and would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Despite a number of setbacks, including his rehabilitation being put on hold during the Covid pandemic and a complicated hip replacement operation in 2022, he has worked under the guidance of Council’s Move More Coordinator Sean Hargan to improve his fitness and mobility.

The Macmillan Cancer Support programme works in partnership with local councils to provide the support people living with cancer need to improve their fitness.

Norman qualified for the programme following his successful recovery from prostate cancer in 2011 and despite the life changing setbacks he has experienced over the last 12 years he remains upbeat and determined to maximise his health.

With the help of an adapted car he now drives himself around Ireland including trips to Lisburn to see his daughter and three grandchildren and his fitness has reached the level where he completed this week’s challenge of a mile distance on the exercise bike, hand bike and rower.

Norman credits his remarkable rehabilitation to the fitness work he has done at Derg Valley and a positive attitude.

“I’ve had my setbacks but for me the key is you have to keep at it every day, if you don’t move it won’t happen,” he said.

“Physios told me I would never walk again. I could have accepted that and stayed in bed but I made a choice that I wasn’t going to let it happen.

“I’ve been active every day of my life working on the family farm and I was a lorry driver all over the UK and Ireland for 30 years.

“I decided I was going to keep moving and get fit to give myself the best possible chance of recovery.

“It started with just taking a few steps every day after I was discharged from hospital and with Sean’s guidance over the last year I’ve now reached the point where I can complete this challenge.”

The accident five years ago led to a long term stay in the Amputee Rehabilitation Centre in Musgrave Hospital and the eventual amputation of his leg following an infection.

“When the accident happened I had to be lifted by Air Ambulance to the Royal in Belfast and spent the next six months lying in bed where the legs were treated and dressed,” he recalls.

“There were a number of delays due to Covid and operating theatres were closed so I was sent home for a period in early 2020 before I eventually went to Musgrave in August 2021.

“Nine months into my treatment at Musgrave I was beginning to get back on my feet when I got an infection in my right leg and it had to be amputated.

“Doctors made a replacement limb for me and there was a challenging three month period of adapting to that where it appeared I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

“When I left Musgrave I could move with the help of a mobility walking aid and when I got home I started to be able to move around with the aid of a crutch.

“I wasn’t able to work on the farm but I started coming into the gym at Derg Valley and the fitness work had a major impact on my recovery.”

Norman then faced a further challenge last year when an existing problem had to be addressed with a hip replacement on his left side.

“The hip replacement was complicated by the fact that that leg had been rebuilt with the aid of pins.

“During lockdown I was placed on a waiting list for the Royal and Musgrave and I visited the UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry and a clinic in Galway who told my that the pin in my leg from the accident meant the procedure was too complicated to perform.

“I kept trying and in 2022 a specialist surgeon in Cork had a look at it and told me he felt it was possible.

“That successful operation was the big turning point in my recovery.

“Within six weeks I was back in the gym in Derg Valley and with a short space of time after two years in a wheelchair the pain was gone and I could use the leg again.

“Just over a year later I enjoy an active life now, I can get myself around unaided and play bowls twice a week, I’m looking forward to setting myself more challenges in the future.

“An active mind and body is what it’s all about, if you are physically fit it gives you the best possible change of recovery no matter what the setback is.”

Norman was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 2011 and made a full recovery after 35 radiotherapy sessions in the City Hospital.

He advised anyone recovering from or living with a cancer diagnosis to consider the Move More programme which has had over 500 participants locally in the last six years.

“I was really fortunate that there were no side effects to my treatment,” he continued. “My PSA was between 6 and 7 and although it flared up to 14 in 2017 I was able to bring it down again with the aid of injections.

“I would advise anyone recovering from cancer to stay active as it is proven to give you the best chance of recovery.

“I work with Sean every Wednesday and he has been a great mentor and always encouraged me to set new fitness goals.

“I’d absolutely recommend the programme to anyone, if there’s nothing ventured there’s nothing gained and it can change your life.”

For more information on Move More in Derry/Strabane call Sean on 07872423754 or email [email protected].