Young Sussex woman unable to walk said future was 'stolen in front of my eyes' - but powerchair football is helping to rebuild her life

A young woman from Worthing said her future was 'stolen from me in front of my eyes' after she was diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses – but powerchair football has given her a new purpose in life.

Katie Bailey, 27, became ‘very unwell, very suddenly and unexpectedly’ aged 16.

She said: “My whole life was changed in an instant; my future plans of becoming a lawyer, stolen from me in front of my eyes.

"Coming up to 12 years later, I have been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, primarily).

"I live every day with tubes and lines, connected to pumps and bags here there and everywhere.

"I am wheelchair bound, and dependant on 24/7 care. I think it’s fair to say that the life I’m living is far from the life I planned, and that’s affected me, both physically and mentally, more than anyone could ever imagine.”

However, Katie ‘believes that everything happens for a reason’, and had she not become chronically ill, she would ‘never have met my husband’, Sam.

"Therefore never have been introduced into the world of powerchair football,” she said.

"After watching Sam train a few times with Brighton and Hove Albion Powerchair Football Club, I was desperate to have a go myself. It started out as a joke, but as soon as I trialled the chair and joined in during a session, I very quickly realised how much I enjoyed it – so I joined the team too.

"Now, it’s become the main topic of every conversation we have, Sunday training is the highlight of our week, and playing my first real match just this weekend gone – it really has become more than just a hobby for me.

"It’s improving my physical and mental health more than I ever believed possible, and the team, parents, carers & coaches have become like a family.”

Playing powerchair football means Katie needs a football powerchair to play in – so she can compete in the higher leagues.

Katie has sent up a GoFundMe page to raise the £4,000 needed. So far £695 has been raised.

Katie added: “Please spread the word to everyone you know, share this post, tag anyone you can think of, join in events that I’m planning to hold, reach out to charities, approach the company you work for to ask about funding, or simply make a donation yourself if you can – every donation helps.

"This may be my biggest challenge yet, but my instant connection to the sport, the people, and love for the game only makes me more determined to get my own chair by whatever means possible, as quickly as possible.”

Speaking to the Worthing Herald, Katie said she is ‘really pleased and quite surprised’ with how the fundraising has gone so far.

"I've not had a normal life and people want to help so that's really nice,” she said. “I’ve still got a very long way to go and I'm sure I'll get there in the end.”

Katie explained that the ‘enormity’ of her illness and the effect it has had on her life has really hit home recently.

"It's become really tough,” she said.

"Having to realise how much I’ve lost and how many years I am behind my peers and people I went to school with.

"They are having children, buying their own house. I got married last year but my illness took years away from me and I'm only just starting to catch up.

“I'm finishing my degree this year. As long as I finish it, then I'm happy. I’m still trying to get back into normal life. When I first became unwell – I didn't realise how it would impact the rest of my life.”

Katie said taking part in powerchair football has given her a new purpose in life.

She added: "Everyone at the football is in the same position with a lifelong illness. We are like a family – whether we are on the same team or not.

“It's a nice thing to fall back on and I've made a lot of friends through football. I'm focused on getting a chair so I can play in the higher matches.

“I met my husband, through the football, in 2020. We got engaged in 2021, moved in together in 2022 and got married in 2023. We'll see what happens this year.”

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