A tough-as-teak Derry teen who underwent brutal surgery this summer and wasn’t expected to be fully mobile until Christmas is training to summit Errigal next year.
Brigade-native, Ross Atkinson, aged 14, who suffers from Cerebral palsy, went under the knife four months ago, to address muscle wastage associated with his condition.
The Lisneal pupil’s progress, since then, has been nothing short of miraculous.
Ross is now putting in regular sessions with personal trainer Terry Kirby at the X-Fit gym on the Trench Road thanks to an Executive Office and Education Authority programme run from the Cathedral Youth Club in the Fountain.
“When you tell young Ross, no, he’s like a bull, he sees red. I don’t see Ross as any different from us. He’s proven it up at X-Fit what he can do,” said youth worker Graham Warke.
“He’s a remarkable young man. He’s a warrior. Any time I’d be having a really bad day I would think of Ross because he always has a smile on his face and he gets on with it. To see him in that gym doing what everyone else does after having that operation is absolutely unbelievable.”
Unbelievable is an understatement. Ross had four bones broken in his lower limbs as part of the surgery.
“The muscles in his legs were weakening and the legs were dropping,” explained proud mum Daphne. “They broke his two knees, his knee caps, they reset them. He has two metal plates in each knee and then they broke his two femurs.”
She added: “When they opened up his left leg his muscles all collapsed because that was his weaker leg.
“He was laid up for nearly eight weeks. It’s all recovery now. He’ll not lie down.”
Two years ago Ross was nominated for a young people’s award for bravery. It’s easy to see why. He wasn’t supposed to be walking until Christmas.
Mrs Atkinson said: “He was in Plaster of Paris on both legs. He was up in Musgrave Hospital. After six weeks they took the two plasters off and they weren’t expecting him to be able to get up but once he got the plasters off he wasn’t able to get up and walk but he was up on his feet.
“The consultant came in and said he couldn’t believe his eyes that he went through this major surgery and how quick he was up.”
Mr Warke said the next mountain Ross has to climb is a literal one: Errigal, namely, which is a project earmarked for early 2017.
“Ross and me have a couple of wee missions we’re going to do. We’re going to get Ross on top of Mount Errigal one way or another with the help of all the young people of the Cathedral Youth Club and X-Fit,” he said.
“If it’s not this year, to allow him to build up a bit of strength, it’ll be the start of next year and we will get him to the top of Errigal.
“This is what Ross wants and whatever Ross wants we’re going to make sure it’s going to happen. If there’s a team of a hundred of us.”