'˜Losing a leg hasn't slowed me down' says Andy
For most people the loss of a limb would herald the end of their sporting ambitions.
Perhaps accepting a fate that they couldn’t achieve their dreams.
But Andy Macleod is not most people. The 25-year-old year old is adaptable, fearless, inspirational and determined not to be held back by anything.
When Andy lost his right leg below the knee almost seven years ago it also came with the added stress and pain of a traumatic brain injury which impacted his attention, concentration and memory.
“A car travelling far too fast knocked me down when I was on my bike in 2011. “ recalled Andy.
“It was my first year in university and I was only 18. It was a huge shock and it changed my life and I feel really lucky I can still do these sports I’ve loved all my life.”
He continued: “It wasn’t plain sailing. It was hard but it was one of these things that being sad and crying about it wouldn’t do either me or those around me any favours. I can’t remember anything about the accident at all. I literally woke up in hospital and I was missing a leg.
“I also had a bad bang to the head as well which left me with a lot of attention, memory difficulties. It took me a bit of time to even realise my leg was gone.
“It was a very traumatic time and perhaps even more so for my family than for me as I don’t remember much of the time.”
Following the accident Andy’s memory was severely impacted as was his ability to speak fluently. While his missing leg was obvious for all to see his hidden injury was difficult for Andy who fought off depression, anxiety and irritability while also working tirelessly to overcome his physical impairment.
Andy’s confidence and whole-hearted approach to life is refreshing and inspiring and he looked what could have been a life-changing experience in the eye and refused to blink.
His personality is infectiously buoyant and he insists he doesn’t feel any differently now to any of his able bodied pals and there is little if anything he feels he can’t do now as he proved to himself having spent the past few months competing against able bodied snowboarders.
Born and raised in Stornoway to a Mum from Great Bernera and a Dad from Shawbost, he is a dyed in the wool Hebridean, but one who has since settled in Stirling after bravely battling back to complete his Adventure Tourism Management degree in Fort William.
“I didn’t think I could have done any of these things I now do,” admitted Andy honestly. “Nobody wanted to say or talk about the fact I might not be able to do the things I used to do and I had to go out and just find out. I’m still doing that a little bit and I’m very pleased.”
Looking back to the early months as he adjusted to life without his leg he recalls he was back on his bike within five months as he showed a remarkable inner steel to not be held back.
“Before I could even wear my first prosthetic leg all day I would sacrifice time with my leg to get more time on my bike,” he said.
“But I’ve always been a positive person and even before the accident I was given the most inspirational award at my high school for having the most positive outlook on life.”
There is so much enthusiasm when Andy talks about the challenges he has overcome and the goals he has on the horizon it is easy to be swept along with the 25-year-old who wasn’t even a regular snowboarder before the accident and now seven years later he is a hopeful for the GB Paralympic team with an eye firmly fixed on Beijing 2022.
“Due to the nature of the course I was studying almost everyone on the course was either a snowboarder or a skiier,” he explained.
“I always wanted to try boarding but I was a mountain biker growing up. But after starting the course I took two days on the board before the accident and I seemed to pick it up really quickly and I absolutely loved it.
“I had the bug and after the accident I didn’t know if I would be able to board again but I read an article in an American sports magazine about an above the knee amputee who was snowboarding and I thought if they could do it then I could.”
Now Andy has several months experience boarding with members of the able bodied snowboarding Team GB and he is a poster boy for athletes and sportspeople seeking to recover from accidents and the loss of limbs across the country.
He has accepted the baton and he has become a keen and regular volunteer with a number of organisations such as Disability Snowsport UK and Active Schools, encouraging younger generations and people with varying abilities into discovering the benefits that the outdoors brings.
“Through the prosthetic place which supplied my leg and Disability Snow Sport UK I was urged to apply for heat competitions for snow board racing and I loved it and I’ve been invited along to train on the back of that,” he continues.
“Last year I wasn’t able to join the para athletes as they were preparing for the paralympics this year so I joined onto the able bodied team to get the experience and the understanding of it all to see how I did with them.
“I feel I did really well and I was 11th out of 32 able bodied guys. Hopefully this summer I can join the para athletes team and work long term towards Beijing 2022.”
“Looking back,” smiles Andy, “It’s been an unbelievable few years. To think I had the privilege of running with both the Olympic Torch in 2012 and the Commonwealth Baton in 2014 and now I hope to work towards Beijing it’s been brilliant but there is a lot to do between now and then.”
Andy would like to thank to Harris Tweed Hebrides, Rarebird Designs, Charles MacLeod Butchers Stornoway, Watermans solicitors in Edinburgh and Isuzu UK motors for their continued support.