After his wife, Michelle, became ill, John saw a dramatic change in her.
“She was anxious,” says John. “Michelle's heart condition causes her to collapse unannounced so the more she collapsed in public the more she retreated back into herself. She would be so worried about what would happen if she left the house because of her condition, so she just stopped going out.
“Before she was diagnosed Michelle was bubbly, outgoing and confident, so it was very hard to see her lose all of that. It hit her massively.”
Applying for the Invictus Games
Michelle wasn’t interested in sport before her injury, but John was keen that she give it a go.
“We knew how good it would be for her to try something new,” says John. “It was hard for us to see her sitting at home in the same spot all day not doing anything, and not wanting to do anything.”
“It’s helped her massively. It’s helped us all.”
So Michelle applied, and after going through the trials she got a place on the UK Team, and is competing in three areas: power lifting; rowing; and swimming.
Loui, Maya and Ethan (from left to right).
This meant a lot of training for Michelle, and as John has to travel a lot for work, Michelle’s daughter Maya, step-son Ethan and nephew Loui have stepped in to help out
“With me being away a lot of the year,” says John, “Maya has had to do a lot for Michelle. When I go away I tell Maya ‘you have to look after mummy now daddy’s away’ and she does. She loves looking after her mum, and for a 6-year-old she’s so responsible.”
John and Michelle with their daughter Maya at the UK Team announcement in May.
Loui in particular has been helping Michelle train with her swimming when John is away with his work.
“Loui is a great swimmer and has been brilliant helping Michelle train,” says John. “She can’t go swimming on her own because of her condition so he’s been going with her and helping her train when I’m not there. When you think most 12 year olds are at home on the PlayStation, he’s at the swimming pool helping Michelle, it’s amazing.
Maya gave Prince Harry a thank you letter at the UK Team announcement in May, thanking him for helping her mum.
Since Michelle has started training for the Invictus Games, John has seen a dramatic change.
“Now with Invictus, she’s slowly getting back to herself,” says John. “Her symptom’s won’t change, but how she’s dealing with it is changing. Getting involved in Invictus has meant that she has to get out of the house, she has to go to training, and she has to socialise with the other athletes. It’s helped her massively. It’s helped us all.
“We’ve always been there to support her, but we weren’t able to do what the Invictus family has done. They help each other, they’re all in the same boat. When Michelle is back in that military environment, it makes her step up and try and move on with her life.
“It makes you realise you’re not on your own.”
“We’re all so excited to get out there in Toronto to cheer on Michelle during the games. I can’t wait to see 17 different nations coming together and meeting people who are all in the same boat. It makes you realise you’re not on your own, you’re not the only one with a disability or illness and seeing everyone help each other. It’s really humbling.”