Jack makes a splash at swimming academy

Paralympian swimmer Jack Bridge pictured Coleraine youngster, Charlie O'Neill.
Paralympian swimmer Jack Bridge pictured Coleraine youngster, Charlie O'Neill.

Coleraine youngster, Charlie O’Neill, aged 11, recently attended a unique swimming academy in London for boys with rare bleeding disorder, haemophilia, after being nominated by a nurse at his local haemophilia centre.

The Buddy Award Swimming Academy, sponsored by Novo Nordisk and hosted by Paralympian swimmer Jack Bridge, brought together 24 boys for a specially tailored day which included swimming coaching, advice from physiotherapists and a Q&A session with London 2012 athlete and holder of six British swimming records, Jack, who has severe haemophilia A.

Charlie’s mum, Sharon, who accompanied Charlie to the Academy, held at Ironmonger Row Baths in Islington, London, said: “Charlie was over the moon to be nominated for the Buddy Award Swimming Academy and he had an amazing day. Having a rare disease that many people don’t understand can be quite isolating, so the opportunity to have a fun day with other boys in the same position was one Charlie wouldn’t have missed for the world. The icing on the cake was meeting Jack, a world-class athlete who hasn’t let his haemophilia hold him back in any way.”

The Buddy Award Swimming Academy was developed by some of the UK’s leading nurses, physiotherapists, consultants and swimming coaches to create a fun programme that inspires and supports children with haemophilia to take up swimming, and continue swimming in the future.

Steering group member, Dr Dan Hart, Consultant Haematologist, the Royal London Hospital, said: “The Buddy Award Swimming Academy was so much more than just a fun day out. For many of the boys there it was the first time they had met someone around their age with the same or similar condition, never mind someone with severe haemophilia who competed at London 2012!

“As well as bringing the boys together, the Academy aimed to promote the benefits of swimming, particularly for people with bleeding disorders, so giving the boys access to top coaches and physios helped get that message across.“

Jamina Gibson from Novo Nordisk UK said: “We believe it’s important to look at every aspect of a patient’s life to see what can be done to improve their wellbeing. Novo Nordisk has an ongoing Buddy programme which celebrates the positive impact that a special ‘buddy’ can have on a person with a bleeding disorder, whether that buddy is a family member, friend, nurse or teacher. The programme has gathered a lot of support and helped to increase awareness and understanding of the condition.”

Around 23,700 people in the UK have a bleeding disorder and 6,000 have haemophilia, a genetic condition that can cause bleeding into joints and muscles, resulting in very painful symptoms that over time can damage joints.