Co Antrim man who lost leg in Thailand crash sets sights on Commonwealth wheelchair basketball
Eighteen months after having his leg amputated in Thailand following a serious scooter accident, Co Antrim man Ross Davidson is excelling as a wheelchair basketball player – and has his sights set on the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Marie Louise McConville reports
ROSS Davidson knows he is lucky to be alive.
Eighteen months ago, doctors in a Thailand hospital had to battle to save his life when he suffered a catalogue of serious injuries in a scooter accident.
The young Carrickfergus man had been travelling and was spending time in Pai in northern Thailand, where he was helping to build schools teaching English and agriculture, when the horrific crash happened on December 8 2017.
Then aged 23, the former Carrickfergus Grammar School pupil recalled being in an ambulance but was unaware of the seriousness of his injuries.
With his parents by his bedside, after they made the trip from Northern Ireland, doctors informed Ross that they would have to amputate his right leg above the knee after life-threatening sepsis set in.
Four weeks after the accident, and after 13 operations and more than 50 blood transfusions, he was flown back to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
And after just 10 days, he was discharged home to his family in a wheelchair.
In May 2018, after being fitted with new prosthetic limb and with the help of parallel walking bars and sticks, Ross took his first steps back on two feet with the help of the team at Musgrave Park Hospital.
Since then, Ross has not allowed his injuries to hold him back.
He immediately took to training to build up his strength, undertaking daily exercise and physio routines, and vowed he would get back to living life as best he could as soon as possible.
Now Ross has become a wheelchair basketball star, is studying for a psychology degree and has gone on a solo travelling trip across Europe.
The Open University student said his aim is to challenge himself.
"I got my first prosthetic at the start of May just over a year ago," he said.
"A couple of weeks after, I also got a car. With a combination of an adapted car and being able to walk, I was able to be independent again and was able to go and do things for myself.
"Over that summer, I went on loads of short trips in my car. The whole thing was because of what happened in Thailand, because my trip was cut short, my goals have always been to get back there to what I was doing and finish it.
"So, that summer, I didn't go anywhere further than London. I did lots of trips around Ireland. Throughout the summer, it was mental, so many things were happening."
During this time, Ross was approached by Disability Sport and asked if he would be interested in playing wheelchair basketball.
"So I went and tried out and loved it and fell in love with sport again," he said.
"I have played rugby. I love wheelchair basketball more than I ever loved rugby. It's another sense of control and independence over your body. Then I decided I was going to go and start playing for Knights Wheelchair Basketball Club in Belfast.
"I absolutely loved it. The main thing about it was I was getting to experience sport with people of all different ranges of physical disabilities and that opened my eyes and made me realise I am not alone and not the only person who has to suffer with disabilities on a daily basis.
"It was great and amazing getting to be part of a team again. I am now mates with every single one of them."
Ross (25) also sees his wheelchair basketball career progressing.
"I played a full season in the Irish League so I played all over Ireland last season and in this year coming, I have registered for a second year in the Irish League but with promises of eventually playing in the GB league.
"My future looks promising. I hope to play wheelchair basketball in the Commonwealth Games in 2022."
It was on the back of his experiences of wheelchair basketball that the graduate of Liverpool John Moores University realised he wanted "to understand people with disability more and people in general".
"I decided to take a new degree in psychology at the Open University," he said.
"I have just finished my first year. I was really intimidated to begin with as it's about five years since I have put pen to paper but once I got back into it, it was like I never left university before.
"The idea would be to be a sports psychologist/counsellor for sports people and people with disabilities in general because I have experienced similar things to other people.
"Now I am getting an educational background in it, I feel I am the right person to help them cope with mental health issues and just daily life issues as well. My idea would be to use what I know through my course to drive people towards sport as a way of dealing with mental health issues and everyday issues."
As well as sport and studying, Ross has also remained determined to return to his first love of travelling and has just embarked on a trip around Europe in a camper van.
"Right back when I was still in hospital in the Royal, I had an idea that I was going to do something with the trauma that I have been through and help people with my trauma," he said.
"There's no way I am going to help others until I help myself, until I go away and feel comfortable with who I am as a person. Luckily I saved a bit of money and the choice was to have money for a house or travel and again, this all comes back to Thailand. I now find it a lot more difficult to travel. I invested in a VW T25 and she's called Cherry."
Ross began his trip in Holland and will continue through Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and Jersey before returning back home to Northern Ireland in time for pre-season wheelchair basketball training.
And during his travels, he is seeking to help others and learn new skills in return for being allowed to park up his van and stay for a time.
His plan includes helping to pick fruit and berries in Italy, helping to build a hostel in Germany and learning holistic therapies in Switzerland.
"The idea is to challenge myself and again get back some of the independence that I feel like I lost," he said.
"I am taking one of my sports chairs so I can practice basketball while I am away. I am driving and staying in the camper van.
"I am not worried at all. To be honest with you, I wanted to do this from about the age of eight. Losing my leg and becoming an amputee has driven me to actually achieve that goal."
He has so far experienced one unscheduled stop due to an issue with his prosthetic leg, which could have jeopardised the rest of his trip, but an ortho-technics team in Herleen in the Netherlands came to his aid.
"I lost weight from the work I've been doing and the amount of exercise," he said.
"I just couldn't carry on if I didn't get it fixed. They took me in last minute. Unreal service."
The Carrickfergus man also intends to keep a record of his trip.
"I am going to make time. I've brought a laptop. I am going to write about all the experiences and write about past experiences, about the last 18 months and write about other people," he said.
"I always question why I am doing the things I am doing. I think things through more. I plan ahead. It makes me want to have more. It has even driven me to do more.
"Its a disability, I have it for life. The most important thing is to try your best. If you can't do something, create or find another way to do it. Be around people who care about you and it'll be hard not to achieve."
He added: "Everything has aligned for me. Some days I wake up and think, how is this all happening?"