The first dance on your wedding day is special – so what if someone says you can’t do it? After two strokes, the first in 1997 when he was just 16 and the second in 2008, Patrick McGeough ended up in an electric wheelchair.
“After my second stroke, I was paralysed on my right-hand side,” says Patrick. “It was very touch and go. They weren’t sure how much I would regain in terms of movement.
“The condition I have, Hughes Syndrome, is very symptomatic in terms of your pain threshold, fatigue and memory problems and it causes the blood to thicken up and cause a clot. It shares many symptoms with MS because a lot of the time you think you're just tired or stressed, but actually it’s a condition that can affect your brain, heart, arms or legs. In my case it was a small clot in the back of the neck.
“It turned my whole world upside down and completely destroyed everything. I had my life planned out and it all went completely to pot.”
Then Patrick met Linda in 2000.
“We met online through a group of friends and used chat rooms that cost a penny a minute. In 2001, I plucked up the courage to drive down and see her and in 2003 she moved up to Watford.
"She was the one that got me through the second stroke. We have three children – my stepson Ian, who’s 14, daughter Rebecca whose seven and Charlie who’s three. Linda was pregnant when I had the stroke and everyone was worried about me but I was just trying to keep her calm.”
In 2011, Patrick and Linda decided to marry but were told they couldn’t step out on the dance floor together.
“I asked about the first dance and people said to us, ‘no, you can’t do this’, so I contacted Sue Cummings and Ruth Boyne from the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association and they said: ‘yes, you can’. At the time I could move my arm part way but not completely. Sue and Ruth got 80 per cent movement back in my arm.
“Wheelchair dance is so much easier than physiotherapy as you’re dancing and having fun and if you get it wrong you can have a bit of a laugh. You don’t realise how much you’re moving.”
The Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (WDSA) was established in 2006 as the national governing body for wheelchair dance sport and wheelchair dancing within the UK. Impressed by the help he received, Patrick went on ITV’s Holding Out For A Hero and won £50,000 for the charity.
“After that I came on board as trustee. Our aim is to promote and develop wheelchair dancing as a sport and leisure activity across the country and internationally, at all levels.”
To raise its profile, the WDSA is hosting the National Wheelchair Dance Sport Championship at Watford Colosseum.
“This opens a door for Watford to put a stamp on it, show people how disability is done and from here we can promote it nationally,” says Patrick. “We already have about 1,000 members and we’re working with the British Paralympic Association, Sport England other national bodies.”
Patrick stresses that wheelchair dance is accessible to anyone with no boundaries in terms of age limit or level of ability. Patrick and Linda will be starting a wheelchair dance group in Watford later this year.
“You can compete at the national championships and become an athlete or be involved just for fun. If someone has become locked away in themselves, doing regular fun sessions and dancing to music can make such a big difference.
“We can do hip hop, ballroom, line dancing and square dancing and tailor the music to the group. The only dance we can't do is the Can Can and that’s only because we haven’t figured out how to do the splits in a wheelchair yet.”
The WDSA Championships is at Watford Colosseum on Saturday, September 29 from 9am-5pm with a gala dinner at 7.30pm. Details: 0845 075 3993, www.watfordcolosseum.co.uk www.ukwheelchairdancesport.com