Deb, a police sergeant, and her fiancé had flown to St Lucia to get married and, two days before the ceremony, had decided to take a scuba-diving trip. But problems with the boat’s engine led to a crew member trying to hotwire it, and the boat exploded in a fireball.
Deb bore the full force of the explosion, which shattered her lower spine and left her paralysed from the waist down. Yet in some ways she counts herself lucky – four people died in the blast.
That was in 1997, and in the intervening years she has battled depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and has endured a number of operations and medical complaints as she tried to rebuild her life in a new world.
Deb is a very active person and before the accident had represented the UK in running and worked as a swimming teacher. She found it very difficult to have that level of fitness and activity taken from her.
In 2005. Debs came to the Perry Group looking to try carriage driving with the potential of being a fast paced, high adrenaline sport. She quickly realised how good she was at it and has gone on to represent Great Britain in the 2010 Para World Championships (she was the highest-placed Briton) and to win both club and national titles.
She has a sense of dynamism and ambition that she feared she would never feel again.
Deb’s involvement with RDA has, she says, “really given me a sense of purpose”. “I’ve always been a competitive person and what this has done is show that just because the body doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean the head and heart are the same. Carriage driving gave me goals to aim for at a time when it was easy to sit around listlessly, thinking ‘what am I going to do?
Deb has achieved so much but she is always grateful of her fantastic groom Holly for which her success would not be possible without.
Deb is off to Holland in the third week in March for an International Competition for which we wish them the very best of luck.