When he was 14, Andrew underwent minor surgery in both feet for ingrown toenails. What should have been a simple routine procedure left Andrew in significant pain, dependent on a wheelchair, and with severe amnesia. He was eventually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

Andrew’s mum, Linda, said:

During his illness, Andrew gradually lost all memory of everything. It was like having a toddler in a 15-year-old’s body. He couldn’t remember how to count. He couldn’t remember what things were called. He also couldn’t remember who people were. It was horrendous. I found the whole process incredibly difficult, extremely stressful, and my own mental health suffered.

One of the things I noticed when Andrew came out of hospital was that he had lost his incredible hand-eye coordination, which had always been part of his sporting prowess, whether in football, golf, cricket, or tennis.

I started researching sports that he might be able to try. We joined the RDA – Riding for the Disabled – where Andrew learnt to drive horses every week at Merrist Wood College. A friend was kind enough to offer us a chance to do some archery, and I also managed to find someone who was willing to teach Andrew tennis in a wheelchair.

I wasn’t sure if Andrew would engage in the sport, but I thought it was worth a try. In his first session, wearing slippers on his feet, he kept missing the ball and couldn’t remember how to hold a tennis racket, which was incredibly hard for me as a parent when he’s previously played at county level.  Suddenly, I remember hearing the whack of a ball as Andrew made contact with the racket and the rest, as they say, is history.

Despite his poor mental health and inability to talk or engage, I managed to get Andrew to tennis most weeks and he improved very, very quickly. By August 2019, he competed in his first LTA tournament at Lee Valley, near London, and he participated in the LTA National Finals tournament in Shrewsbury at the end of the year.

While he was constantly improving in tennis, Andrew was struggling in his day-to-day life. His wheelchair was heavy, not fitted to Andrew’s dimensions, he struggled to push independently, and it was difficult for others to lift his day chair in and out of the car. The family decided to apply to Variety for a lighter wheelchair, which arrived in time for Andrew’s first day at college in September 2020. Last year, Variety was also able to fund a replacement sports wheelchair for Andrew, which has allowed him to start playing professionally.

Linda said:

Without Variety, I don’t know where we would be. There is no way that I could have raised enough money myself to fund either of Andrew’s wheelchairs. They’ve made an incredible difference to Andrew in so many ways. He can lift his day chair into his car himself and be fully independent when out and about! His new tennis chair has also made an incredible difference to him, and his ranking improvements are fantastic!

Since his classification has been resolved, Andrew has already won his first international Men’s Singles title in Bulle, as well as adding a further three ITF Doubles titles to his collection in Zagreb and Zurich.

Despite the adversity he has faced, Andrew refuses to give up and he is now using his experience to highlight the issues surrounding classification in wheelchair sports in the hopes of preventing other people facing the struggles he did.

Andrew said:

I’m so grateful to Variety for everything they’ve done to support me; it’s completely changed my life for the better.  I’m now able to put my full focus into maximising my performance.