We are delighted and proud to announce that Gemma Trotter has accepted our invitation to join our invaluable team of DBF Ambassadors.
Gemma is a wonderful character who exemplifies the true Bader spirit. She underwent a leg amputation as a teenager following a car accident and eventually became one of the first amputees to opt for an osseo-integration prosthetic. As well as helping and supporting fellow amputees through her own efforts and through her long and continuing association with LimbPower, she has been a long-term supporter of the DBF having joined 2 of our other Ambassadors, Maggie “Maggz” Biggs and Wyn Jenkins, on the inaugural Team Bader event, “Tandem Challenge Wales” in February 2013.
The Douglas Bader Foundation was founded to continue Sir Douglas’s inspiration of amputees and other disabled and to continue his work in showing people that it’s about what you can do in life, not what you can’t. Gemma personifies that philosophy and we couldn’t be more delighted or more honoured that she has agreed to join our team.
I remember watching the film based on Douglas Bader ‘Reach for the Sky’ back when I was an inpatient in Roehampton and having huge admiration for the great man.
Below you can see Gemma in action riding for Team Bader Amputees and, right, with fellow team members, Maggie Biggs (l) and Jonny Ackroyd.
Here, in her own words, is Gemma’s story:
I was involved in a road traffic accident when I was 14 years old as a rear seat passenger in Belgium. Suddenly my life was going to be different and this started with a 2 year stay in hospital and 24 operations to try to salvage my leg which ultimately led to me making the decision to have an above the knee amputation at 16 years old. Big decision and one I have never questioned or regretted, the thought of having a new leg which wouldn’t hurt, would function well and life starting again was enough to see me through. I was desperate to start college to train to become a car mechanic. My dream was to be a mechanic on a rally team. So June 1999 I had the amputation and was then transferred to the iconic Queen Mary’s hospital for my rehab. 4 weeks and one day later I walk out of there, with no walking aids but my new leg to show the world.
I used sockets for 2ish years of which I refer to as my honeymoon period. Life was great, training to be a car mechanic, racing hot rods with my Dad at weekends and starting to live my life completely independently. This was until my 20th Birthday when I stopped walking on a socket. The next 2 years were extremely tough as I lost my job, lost my mortgage, lost my confidence and ultimately lost the ability to live life as I had enjoyed. This was a very bad time for me, and this is when I put myself forward to the medical trial Osseo-Integration. This was going to be the big turning point in my life!
I was taken on as patient no 13, to go and have a titanium implant drilled and tapped into the bone, which then an external pin would screw into so thus meaning I would bolt a leg on, and weight bear through the bone again. Great, all my problems were socket related and the soft tissue on my baby leg was the ultimate problem. So having 5 inches more cut off my leg they went in and I now had a shiny pin to bolt a leg onto. After 18months – 2 years of rehab I was walking again. I studied a HND in motorsport engineering still trying to pursue my dream career.
So fast forward a few years, and I now have a Son called Archie and I’ve decided to pursue a new dream. I wanted to become a fitness instructor/personal trainer who would teach group fitness classes. I wanted to become the first Les Mills instructor in the world to teach as an amputee and this dream came true in 2012. Cycling is my huge passion which started off 14 years ago with spin classes. To this day, I still attend between 4-5 a week as well as regular body pump classes.
My Osseo integration failed in 2014 and I have learnt to master everything on one leg and crutches. This year I wanted to do a good challenge so I signed up to walk mount Snowdon to raise funds for LimbPower. This I succeeded at and enjoyed the challenge of it. I went back to teaching spin on one leg only last week and I actually forgot half way through that my participants would be seeing me do this with only 1 leg, but I just enjoyed every second and got a real buzz from instructing again.
In the past few years I have really dedicated a lot of my life to helping other amputees and being sports officer for a while for Limbpower was a real honour. I am co-vice chair for Roehampton user group where my walking journey began some 16 years ago. I remember watching the film based on Douglas Bader ‘Reach for the Sky’ back when I was an inpatient in Roehampton and having huge admiration for the great man. I have always been a proud ‘piece of furniture’ at the hospital and try to contribute to other patients going through rehab as much as I can.
I cycled from North to South Wales back in 2013 for DBF to help raise awareness and funds. I believe many more amputees could be enjoying a full and happy life if they can participate in sport and look after their fitness. I couldn’t live without sport, health, fitness and competition and would like to help others achieve their goal in getting involved. I have done a couple of Para cycling events this year and also completed my first ever London Triathlon in August 2015 & time trial for Team Bader in September 2015. This was exhilarating and reminded me of having to focus once again and seek the best in myself on the day. I hope 2016 will see me returning to the bike and competing after a good winter of training. After my leg problems stopped me becoming a Paralympic cyclist for Rio I want to achieve just as much but on my own merit.
I am having my 40th operation in October 2015 to put my Osseo pin back in and will be walking again on my leg come next summer. I am really looking forward to this time but I have also embraced the time I’ve had to live without the use of the best prosthetic leg in the world. I have had to change my whole outlook on how I carry out activities I enjoy and just tackle them as best I can. I can still play with my Son, I can ride my bike, I can enjoy almost every activity I did before. It’s been hard at times but I have enjoyed the bump down to earth to realise how lucky I was and will hopefully be again to walk on such an incredible leg.