Graeme Moore suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and has had both his feet amputated. This summer he plans to complete the Great North Swim
Tell us how you got into open water swimming? I raced in the pool as a youngster, and continued into my 20s and even early 30s. At that time my daughter was getting into swimming and that led me into coaching and my eventual involvement with Phoenix Triathlon. After my first amputation in 2014 I decided to set myself a challenge as part of my recovery and rehabilitation so I signed up for the Great North Swim 2015 in Windermere. I trained in the pool initially and then went with a group to Ellerton Lake for my first ever open water swim. I did four laps, which is just over a mile, and it felt fantastic.
How did you get on in your first mass participation event? It’s a little tricky at the Great North Swim as it’s a land-based start. However, the support and the life guards were fantastic. I got into the water after everyone else in my wave and the lifeguards promised to meet me at the end with my wheelchair. The biggest problem is that I’m a relatively fast swimmer so I soon started overtaking other swimmers andit got a bit chaotic in the middle. I felt like I was in the middle of a cavalry charge. However, it was a really big step forwards for me and a fantastic achievement to finish.How’s your training going for 2017?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get into the water these past few months. Over the last 20 years I’ve had numerous operations on my feet to try to straighten them and repair the damage caused by my illness. However, it got to the stage where the best course of action was amputation and I had my second foot removed in August 2016. The stump is still tender and fragile so I’ve been advised to keep out of the water for now and I have to confess that I’ve put on a little weight as a consequence. On the other hand, I’ve been working with a great team of physiotherapists who’ve really put me through my paces and helped maintain and build my upper body strength. I hope to get back in the water soon!
How did your first amputation affect how you swim? Not as badly as I feared, especially when wearing a wetsuit, so I’m hoping for something similar now I have both feet removed. I’ve already had my wetsuit adapted for one stump so I need to go back and have the same thing done on the other leg. In training, I use a pull buoy a lot as I have to rely totally on my upper body for propulsion so I’m also looking to see if I can get something built into my wetsuit that works a bit like a pull buoy in the open water. It’s not as if I’m racing or competing so I don’t think it’s cheating. I just want to make myself as comfortable in the water as I can be.How has your disability changed the way you coach? On a practical level it’s made it much harder to coach cycling or running sessions, although I am working with Evans (the bike shop) to see if they can adapt a road bike so that I can ride it. I do my poolside coaching from a wheelchair. I think having gone through what I have helps me tune in and empathise better with other people who are going through difficult changes in their lives. I’d also like to think that seeing me making the effort and getting to the pool to coach inspires the people in my sessions to try a little harder. There are definitely some positives that come from it.
What advice would you offer to other people recovering from setbacks or injury? Keep a positive attitude and don’t let things beat you. I always look for ways around problems. Disability shouldn’t stand in your way. There is a way forward and a place for you in society. Your worth is the same.
Through the events Graeme takes part in he raises funds for the Arctic One Foundation which provides vital equipment to give children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to take part in sports. He is an Ambassador for Sports with the Arctic One Foundation in the North East.
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