999-call taker with East Midlands Ambulance Service Amanda Davidson has overcome some major hurdles in her life.
Facing life-changing injuries that ended her career in the Metropolitan Police, tackling Snowdon in a wheelchair, and surviving chronic, debilitating illness.
But now the mother-of-two from Lincoln is facing her biggest-ever personal challenge after being selected to take part in the Paralympics archery development programme.
And if, after intensive training, she proves to be good enough Amanda could be selected for Team GB and take part in the Paralympic Games in Japan in 2020.
Amanda she credits her achievement to a very special companion in her life – Jupiter, her disability assistance dog trained by national charity Support Dogs, who has restored her confidence and given her back her independence.
“In some way Jupiter has not just given me back my life, he’s added to it,” says Amanda. “He’s given me the confidence to do all sorts of things I would never have thought, like 10ks, or climbing up Snowdon in my wheelchair.”
Amanda’s selection for the Paralympics is all the more remarkable as she has never lifted a bow and arrow before. “It’s a bit of a challenge to go from being a non-shooter to being world class in three years, but you are chosen, less because of your ability to shoot, but because of your character and qualities,” she explains.
“They can teach you to shoot but I think they were looking for people that have great determination as that can’t be taught, and they must think I am that type of person. I use a wheelchair a lot of the time so obviously I will have to build up my upper body and arms. It’s very exciting – my head’s in a spin!
“I mentioned to her husband Mark that I would like to attend the Paralympics in Japan, but he said ‘you can’t, as the kids will be at university then,’ but I don’t like the word ‘can’t…”
Amanda is no stranger to challenging situations, having been awarded a Commissioners and an Old Bailey’s Commendation for bravery during a distinguished career with the Metropolitan Police.
She received multiple injuries in the line of duty and had to retire from the force at the age of just 29.
She has also battled with ill health for much of her adult life.
Amanda married and had two daughters, Tasha, now 17, and Eryn, 14. But unfortunately giving birth sparked a chronic auto-immune disease called lupus. Then she suffered a stroke at 38, which changed the course of her life, and meant she needed professional care for the first time.
Despite these setbacks, in 2009 Amanda joined the East Midlands Ambulance Service as a 999 call-taker. She had recently after recovered from spinal surgery on her back to decompress her spinal column, as the injuries sustained during the assault she suffered as a police officer were deteriorating. She now uses a stick at home and a wheelchair when she is out.
In 2013 Amanda contacted Support Dogs, a national charity dedicated to increasing independence and quality of life for children and adults with some of the most challenging of conditions, to enquire if her pet black Labrador Jupiter could be trained to support her as a disability assistance dog.
“Jupiter was my pet dog and it took him four months to retrain as a support dog. He fetches my stick, closes my office door, drags the laundry basket around the house, and loads the washing machine. He pushes buttons for me – the list is extensive,” explains Amanda, now 48.
“He’s given me back my independence and, the best thing about that is that my kids see how capable we are together and it eases the pressure on them. That means so much.”
Since then Amanda has thrown herself into raising funds and awareness for Support Dogs. Last year she raised more than £4,000 for the charity that transformed her life by climbing Snowdon. She recruited 13 volunteers to help drag her wheelchair to the summit in three hours and 25 minutes.
“Support Dogs is a fantastic charity and provide all their services for free, so I’m very keen to raise funds for them to help support even more people,” she says.
“There is no way I’d have the confidence to have applied for the Paralympics without Jupiter and Support Dogs.”
Amanda is now training six days a week, and has started shooting at Lincoln Archers archery club, slowly building up her muscles in her arms and upper body. She will need to compete in a number of tournaments on the road to GB selection and then a try out for the Paralympics.
She adds: “It’s a long hard road with no guarantees, but I’m lucky to have got this far, and am determined to get all the way to Japan.”
Danny Anderson, fundraising manager at Support Dogs, says: “It’s fantastic news that Amanda has been selected for the Paralympics development programme and that we’ve played a part in her achievement. Our work transforms the lives of adults and children with disabilities, enabling them to live independently, and to fulfil their dreams.