Brave Jessica makes a big splash

Danielle Hill
Danielle Hill

A young Donaghcloney girl who suffers from the debilitating condition of scoliosis has learnt to swim thanks to a youth programme.

Jessica Humphreys, 10, had been taking part in the Straight2Swimming programme in Belfast since September. She has scoliosis which is characterised by an abnormal curvature of the spine.

Jessica’s mother Suzanne couldn’t speak highly enough of the programme and its benefits.

She said: “Jessica is very shy and her condition doesn’t help. There were tears galore the first night we went down but she wouldn’t miss it now.

“The swimming is great exercise and she has made really good friendships. They held a barbecue night and you could see all the kids going off to play with their new friends.”

Suzanne agreed that she has benefitted from the programme, which is run by Belfast Swimming Club, as well as Jessica herself.

She said: “It has been terrific for us and Jessica. It’s been good for the parents as it gives you the chance to talk to others in the same

“Jessica is waiting on her operation and we’ve been able to talk to other parents who have already gone through that process. Without them we would be in the dark about what to expect.”

Jessica recently joined special guests including former Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon, Paralympian Michael McKillop and boxers Paddy Barnes and Brian Magee at a celebration of the first season of the youth programme.

The brain child of husband and wife team Philip and Edel Convery, the Straight2Swimming programme has created a unique opportunity for children with scoliosis to become part of City Of Belfast Swimming Club and gain huge emotional and physical benefits from swimming.

Sponsored by American specialist spine medical device company K2M, the group has not only benefitted patients by helping them to become more fit, but has also boosted the confidence of young people suffering from scoliosis by providing a safe, inclusive space for patients to form friendships and meet others like them.

Edel Convery believes it is making a real difference to the lives of scoliosis sufferers.

She said: “Starting out one year ago with 30 swimmers, we have received interest from over 50 swimmers for the programme’s next season, which will begin in the autumn.

The incredible growth of the club acts as a testament to the support we are offering to young scoliosis sufferers across Northern Ireland and their families, who are welcome to attend sessions led by doctors, therapists, and other parents who have raised children with Scoliosis while their children swim each week.”