'Doctors said the gym would fix my knee pain
Paul Baddeley was fit and healthy when he was hit with the devastating news
Life was just getting started for Paul Baddeley when his world came crashing down around him.
Landing his first full-time job in the pottery industry at the age of 19, the teenager's future was looking bright.
But it was while working that bosses noticed him struggle to carry items up the stairs, encouraging him to visit a doctor.
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Medics told Paul he had housemaids' knee, also known as prepatellar bursitis or kneecap bursitis, which can cause pain and swelling.
They advised him to sign up to a gym and work out regularly, believing exercise would help fix the problem.
Paul followed their orders but struggled with step aerobics, prompting his family to take him to a private orthopaedic surgery.
Almost immediately, a consultant knew Paul had muscular dystrophy.
Muscular dystrophy, or MD, is a hereditary condition that causes muscles to waste away.
Depending on the type, muscular dystrophy can affect your ability to move, walk and perform daily activities. It can also affect muscles that help the heart and lungs function.
While there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, medications and therapy can help manage symptoms and slow the course of the disease.
“The doctor told me, ‘I think you’ve got a form of muscular dystrophy,’” the now 56-year-old told the Manchester Evening News. “I said, ‘What’s that?’
“My mum and dad burst into tears. Talking to my folks, they said I’d be in a wheelchair before I was 30.
“I’d led a normal life up to then, I was going out with my mates every night. I was at that stage where nothing really bothered me. I had a good group of friends around me.
“I carried on as normal. I was working, got married and had kids. It made no difference at all. But then I started to notice things.”
By the time he was 35, Paul started stumbling a lot and his muscles were contracting more frequently.
When he was 40, he had to walk with the aid of a crutch.
In 2015, the dad-of-two ended up in hospital with a collapsed lung and heart failure. Following his release, he fell and broke his femur bone.
Paul knew he needed help and decided it was time to get himself a wheelchair at the age of 48.
And although he had dreaded using one since the day of his diagnosis, Paul describes his chair as the “best thing” that has ever happened to him.
“I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to me,” he said. “But the world opened up to me again. I could go anywhere I wanted without the fear of being knocked over.
“Before I was in a wheelchair, I depended on my wife a lot to go food shopping if I didn’t feel like it.
“Once I was in a wheelchair, I was able to do more for myself.
“I would go shopping on my own, go to the hospital on my own and go fishing on my own.
“The world is a much bigger place when you’re in one. It’s just a case of acting on it.
“It’s just been a rollercoaster, but I’ve always tried to see the positive side of things.”
A keen angler all his life, Paul’s physical disability left him unable to fish at one point.
That’s why he helped set up the Neuromuscular Centre Fishing Club – a volunteer-led group who introduce fishing to people who have physical disabilities.
The group made it their mission to make the sport more inclusive and have put measures in place to make angling more accessible.
All the rod licence income from the Environment Agency goes back into the sport, with some of the money going into the GetFishingFund – an initiative that gives financial support to community interest groups to help introduce fishing to wider audiences.
The Neuromuscular Centre Fishing Club has used funding from the GetFishingFund to source new, accessible equipment including telescopic ultra-light rods.
In addition, the funding also allowed them to purchase giant umbrellas in case of tumultuous weather, as well as a tripod that the rods rest on for accessibility purposes so the participants don’t always need to be holding the rods.
With peer support being vital for those living with disabilities, it’s hoped the sessions will provide a great opportunity for members to engage with others who experience similar day-to-day struggles.
The group is now appealing for volunteers to join. For more information, contact [email protected].