Nick’s Story

Blog » Personal Stories » Talipes / Clubfoot

My story almost never even had a beginning, it could have been very close to just being an end. A mix up with the months of my due date all the way back in
1991 led to me being born on the 20th of September rather than my early August due date. I ended up being born to an emergency C-section and was very
lucky to have been born at all and not to have killed
my mum on the way.

It was unclear whether it was the extra 6 weeks in the womb that caused my bilateral talipes (two clubbed feet) or if it had been passed on genetically
from my mum as she had been born with talipes in
one leg.

I ended up having a lot of surgery as a baby to try and correct the talipes from a young age although this was only partially successful on each leg with greater success on my right leg than left. I also must have realised from a young age that I was going to need to use my brain more than my legs as I learnt to talk at half the age I learnt to walk.

In 2004 I was just entering year 8 and I was due to have major surgery during October half term. This was probably the toughest year of my life; I was under general anaesthetic for hours and woke up in an agony that wouldn’t go away for months. I had metal frames fitted to both legs, 3 months on my left leg and 6 months on my right, I was given a spanner and an A4 sheet of paper which told me how many times a day I had to turn each coloured nut to move all the bones in my lower leg. I also had to walk every day to open the wounds to prevent the skin growing up the skewers, these wounds then needed cleaning with disinfectant.

The hardest parts of this ordeal weren’t the pain, it was the realisation of everything that I had momentarily lost. The ability to play outside with my friends, the ability to go to school, the ability to do something as trivial as showering myself.

After learning to walk again following the surgery I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I had grown up with other children running over to me in soft play areas and while playing football asking what was wrong with me daily because my disability was so visible, now it was completely hidden. My feet were pointing forward, and it was only if I tried to run that my inflexible ankles would be highlighted.

I very much tried to live my life like this for almost 20 years following surgery, I would play rugby on a weekend and if anyone commented during the match or at work the following Monday then “I’d picked up a knock”. In my head I was no longer
disabled, I was like everyone else, I was normal.

I was living a lie. I rationalised it to myself that I wanted people to know me for me and not form perceptions of me before meeting me if they heard I was disabled. I told nobody at all at work, I would never mention it in relationships. In that case I would
actively try to avoid doing anything active because it would be obvious even though being active has always been a passion of mine.

That all changed in late 2021. Three things all happened in a very short space of time that changed my life. I heard about PDRL (Physical Disability Rugby League), I moved jobs and I watched I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.

On the 2021 season of I’m A Celeb, one of the contestants was Kadeena Cox. Kadeena is a Paralympic gold medallist with a disability that is hidden most of the time.
Almost overnight I accepted that my disability was part of who I am and rather than trying to hide it, I should be proud of it. I realised that it had made me more resilient, loyal and determined. I’d always hated people telling me that I couldn’t do something.

I began playing PDRL and in my first season won the grand final with Leeds Rhinos, assisting both of our tries in the final. The following year I went on to win the world cup with England, scoring the first try in that final. I have since been made captain of the England team and have been appointed to the Community Board at the RFL to offer my insight from playing disability sport.

I told my new job about my disability and became a co-chair of our disability employee network, winning a Chairman’s Award after my first year in that role for promoting inclusion and diversity in a business of 4 and a half thousand people.
I ran the Rob Burrow Leeds marathon in 2023. When I first started running, I couldn’t run 1km because of my disability but I fully believe everything is possible
if you want it enough.

I have also seen the benefit in my personal life. I am in a loving relationship, and we are getting married in 2025. My partner was the first person I had ever
been completely open and honest with about my disability on the first day that I met them. That may be a coincidence, it may not. What I do know is that I’ve never been happier within myself and having an amazing woman who loves me for all of me is a
huge part of that.