'I refused to be a victim' says inspirational Harrogate amputee who has returned to sport after losing leg in road crash
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When Harrogate businessman Andrew Simister successfully competed at the Inclusive Padel Tennis Tour tournament in Milan last month with his son Max, it was with a 'bionic' leg.
Although the determined Andrew had his right leg amputated above the knee and suffered a broken back in a car accident in 2022, he was never going to settle for a life defined by that traumatic moment.
Speaking after taking part in the racket sport tournament featuring doubles teams comprising one player with a disability and one without,
Andrew said: “Lying there after the accident, having my leg amputated, thinking my life was over and then accepting what happened and knowing I could recover.
"My leg had gone but I wasn't going to die and I knew it was going to be fine.
"I liken my situation to having an electric car.
"The destination is the same but you have to plan your journey differently.”
Prior to the road accident, Andrew’s love of sport and fitness had seen him running two New York marathons, coaching the junior Beckwithshaw Saints football team, playing cricket and keeping fit.
Despite months of surgery on-and-off and regular adjustments to his prosthetic leg, at no point was Andrew going to give up.
Successfully competing in the padel tournament recently was a fantastic feeling, he says, the first time, in fact, he had “felt part of a community” since losing his leg.
"It was incredible to be with so many other players ranging from amputees to wheelchair users,” said Andrew.
"It was the first time I’ve felt part of a community since my accident
"I may have been a victim of an accident, but I wasn't going to be a victim.
"Recovery, and I spoke a lot of people about it, is 20 per cent physical and 80 per cent mental.”
Andrew was first introduced to padel tennis by friends and now plays as often as he can at Spa Tennis Club in Harrogate where he sings the praises of coach Carolyn Rothwell for the advice and encouragement that she gives.
As well as returning to sport, Andrew has also become a trustee of Harrogate-based charity, Disability Action Yorkshire.
He is the first to acknowledge that he has a new outlook on life thanks to the accident and a new mission as a passionate and committed advocate for disability rights.
He said: “It's a life that I would never have been involved with it without my accident.
“I have lived experiences both able-bodied and disabled and I can see how disabled people get a terrible time.
"They can be easily bullied. Nobody cares about parking in a blue badge space, “it's only the disabled” can sometimes be the attitude.”
Andrew’s incredible journey from having no leg to having a prosthetic leg and dealing with the challenges that would bring has been aided by organisations representing disabled people such as the Limbless Association.
His mission now is to work hard to advocate for disabled people via Disability Action Yorkshire.
More information on Disability Action Yorkshire, visit: https://www.disabilityactionyorkshire.org.uk/
More information on Inclusive Padel Tour, visit: https://www.inclusivepadeltour.com/