We all enjoy hearing an inspiring story that provides hope and motivation to us all, and one of our personal favourites in the terptree office is the story of Jack Hodgson.
Jack is a sporty, energetic and hopeful 17-year old who is extremely talented at Judo, and nothing should stand in his way of getting to the top.
However, for Jack, there is one thing; Type 2 Usher Syndrome. Usher Syndrome is a form of gradual deafblindness; one is usually deaf and has limited sight. Dependant on the severity, impaired vision turns to complete blindness over time. Individually these are major disabilities, but combined they have a highly debilitating impact on leading a normal life. As a sufferer, your two primary senses are on a ticking time bomb and you are never sure when the symptoms will get worse, and if or when you will become, ultimately, blind.
But even with these permanent barriers in Jack’s path, he has turned disability into strength. Jack’s determination has resulted in him representing Great Britain regularly, winning a Commonwealth Gold Medal, winning a Silver Medal at the European Championships in Germany, and attaining the prestigious distinctions of ‘Young Deaf Athlete of the Year’ and ‘Young Deafblind Person of the year’.
We have followed Jack’s story in recent months, so we were delighted when he agreed to be interviewed by us to tell his story. Here is what he had to say to me:
Michael: We are delighted to have you here with us, Jack. We have followed your progress with interest, from the disdain of your badly injured hand in November to your brilliant silver medal. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Jack: I live in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, with my Mum, Dad and Brother Dylan, who is 14. I study law and sports science at college. I am half Welsh, as my mum is Welsh. Gainsborough is an okay town, but miles away from any decent judo clubs and so I have to do a lot of travelling!
Michael: For our readers, could you describe your personal story of Usher Syndrome type 2: when you found out you had it, how you manage it and what the likely long term effects of it will be.
Jack: I was diagnosed as deaf when I was 5 and a half but I had failed every hearing test before that! The vision loss was diagnosed when I was 11 and a half. It is a challenging condition as it does affect most aspects of my life but I have managed to find ways around the problems! Long term is my vision will deteriorate but nobody knows to what degree.
Michael: It’s clearly evident you’ve not let it stand in your way. What additional support do you have for it?
Jack: I had a full time Teaching Assistant at school but now I am at college I get assistance when I request it.
Michael: Good to see the support is there. So, Judo! What is it? And when did you start it?
Jack: Judo is ‘The Gentle Way’, it involves a lot of throwing, arm locks, strangles and hold downs. I have been training since I was 6 years old – I’m a black belt now and represent Great Britain!
Michael: Haha doesn’t sound very “gentle”. But what you have achieved is nothing short of outstanding. How does Ushers Syndrome impact on your progress?
Jack: It is very challenging. I have to remove my hearing aids when I am training as they get in the way, go flying or cut out. Of course with them removed I hear nothing! My lack of vision is also very challenging; I get caught out with foot sweeps as I just can’t see anything in my peripheral vision!
Michael: Yet with all of that, you have done tremendously. What has been your greatest achievement to date?
Jack: Commonwealth Gold medal and then the German Open Silver! Plus winning Young Deaf Athlete of the Year and Young Deafblind Person of the year.
Michael: So what upcoming events should we look out for you in?
Jack: I have lots of UK events coming up including, hopefully, the World Championships in America in September. Qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio starts in September!
Michael: Well, we shall continue to follow your journey with excitement! Thanks for your time Jack, and good luck!
Jack: Thank you (smiles) 🙂