Amputee takes up challenge

INSPIRATIONAL: Andrew Jamie, pictured at training earlier this week at the Blenheim Rowing Club, hasn't let the loss of a leg prevent him from competing and having fun.
SCOTT HAMMOND/Marlborough Express
INSPIRATIONAL: Andrew Jamie, pictured at training earlier this week at the Blenheim Rowing Club, hasn't let the loss of a leg prevent him from competing and having fun.

Rowing is a physically demanding sport at the best of times – but try it with one leg.

That's exactly what Blenheim Rowing Club member and amputee Andrew Jamie is doing.

Jamie recently joined the club and is enjoying the challenge of rowing, despite taking an unscheduled dip in the Wairau River earlier this week when his double scull boat caught a crab and tipped over.

The 16-year-old was born with a rare condition, Klipple Treanauny Syndrome, which, put simply, is a vascular malfunction of veins or an excess of veins. Only about 200 people worldwide suffer from it.

In Jamie's case the condition affected his right leg. It considerably weakened the leg and when he broke it three times in a year, he had a difficult decision to make – especially at his young age.

He could either put up with the condition, which would only worsen, or have the leg amputated at the knee.

In arriving at his decision to have the leg amputated in July last year, Jamie had some help from New Zealand's most famous amputee, former Marlborough Sportsperson of the Year and conqueror of Mt Everest, Mark Inglis.

"Mark had a chat with me about amputation and I decided to go through with it.

"He said it's a lot better now the things you can do with prosthetic limbs.

"It was a big decision to get it amputated. I felt quite attached to my leg, as you are, but I saw more positives than negatives."

Inglis has become a mentor for Jamie as he comes to terms with and adapts to life without a right leg.

"Mark has helped me a lot. He thinks it's good to get into a physical activity and have some fun. I'm getting used to it now.

"I still feel my toes sometimes and go to scratch them – then realise I haven't got any.

"If I hadn't had the amputation the leg would not have grown properly anyway."

Even with barely half a leg, Jamie has still managed to break the stump since the amputation, but he's making good progress.

He doesn't need painkillers any more, and the next step is to get a prosthetic limb fitted.

However, Jamie said the doctors might have to cut more off his leg to fit a new limb on.

"At the moment Mark is working on getting me a sponsor to get me a bike so I can cycle out to rowing.

"I've paid my subs at Blenheim so I'm committed for the season."

Having one leg and having just started rowing means he can't propel the boat through the water with the same power as others, but Jamie is confident he can improve significantly, and once a prosthetic leg is fitted, who knows what he can achieve?

"One leg makes the balance a bit odd but [provides] the same power, pretty much. I manage to keep up.

"I was two minutes slower than everyone else on the erg test. I did 9min 12s for two kilometres.

"The coaches reckon I can take a minute off that, but that was pretty good for a first go."

Blenheim Rowing Club coach Bill Campbell was full of praise for the gutsy teenager, saying he has fitted in very well.

The Marlborough Express