Part 1 of 2 guest blogs by Practice Development Nurse for people with learning disabilities, @dmarsden49
When I was at primary school there was a girl in my year who had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair. At break times the class would run out on to the concrete playground, hare around and generally expend energy. I recall a moment when I realised that the girl was not involved in the games and before I had time to really think about it, I’d come up behind her, said ‘Come on let’s get them!’ and wheeled her chair around to join in the noisy games. This scared her and after the break I was admonished in front of the class for my lack of thought by our teacher, I vividly remember the tears that I shed in front of the class and the words ‘it’s not fair’ going around and around in my head.
In many ways, I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to correct that experience; qualifying as a learning disability nurse at the end of the last century, becoming a Community Learning Disability Nurse and taking opportunities to be employed in roles where I could be that person, who in some small sense, includes that girl in society. It was a startling realisation to find myself within this struggle and it has it helped me grow and dream of what society could be like if it – we – got it right for people with learning disabilities.
However, in 2007 as a husband and a father of two young children, I began to see my professional and personal world becoming quite detached from each other. I was challenged to consider that if I was really passionate about community and inclusion, how that might look in my life.
The result was a meeting with an inclusive group of people in the local pub and the idea of an inclusive football tournament was created. A mission statement was worded carefully to bring people with and without learning disabilities together to play football, and Equal Teams Football Club was born.
In the intervening seven years the inclusive Equal Teams FC @equalteamsfc committee has wrestled with the mission statement and how that might be practically delivered. What clearly captured the imagination of all involved with the club has been the idea of competition, and three years after fielding the first team in the pan-disability Kent Disability League @kentdisleague Equal Teams FC has added a team to the league each season.
What I’ve learnt through this process is that competition is more than win, lose or draw, it’s more holistic that that, it’s about the people coming together, it’s about union, it’s about conflict and resolution. While it is about success and failure, it’s up to each individual to interpret what that means to them, to learn from it and to move on.
Being a learning disability nurse in the third biggest hospital trust in the country @ekhuft and enabling our staff to provide that inclusive, person centred health care to those that are acutely unwell is the perfect role for me. Being Joint Treasurer for Equal Teams FC has stretched me, and I have gained complementary skills and knowledge because of it. But it is those people…those people who want to come and make a difference, who want to contribute whatever they can that is the real reward, meeting them and working with them.
Recent reflections have reminded me that while that youth exuberance can be counter productive, it has had me reach this place where not only am I able to contribute to the health and lives of some people with learning disabilities, but also through running the London Marathon for the club, they are providing me with a empowering reason to stay fit!
If you would like to contribute go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DanielMarsden49
Part 2 of this blog series will be featured in early February!
Blog moderated by Ann Gates BPharm(Hons) MRPharmS
Founder and Director of Exercise Works!