Brian Murray is a professional athlete, captain to Scotland's National Amputee Football team and an undeniable fighter! A passionate footballer from a young age, faced with a life changing cancer diagnosis at just 11 years old. This incredible man has turned adversity into opportunity by helping to launch amputee football in Scotland. Brian was kind enough to have a chat with us about his life and work as a pioneer for amputees in the UK.
Back in 1980 I started to develop a slight limp, I assumed it was a football injury so I wasn't particularly worried. However, on 12th December 1980 (aged 11), I went to hospital for an x ray and just 4 days later I had an operation to remove my whole left leg. I remember clearly having walked into the x ray, upon coming out I was met with quite the response from the nurses who were adamant I needed to lie down and be wheeled to see the doctor. It was the beginning of a new road as I knew it.
Just four days later on 16th December, I had an operation to remove not only the tumour growing on my left knee, but my whole left leg. Waking up from the operation I was incredibly lucky to have a team of nurses who were really supportive at preparing me to lift up the covers and take a look. Naturally it was a bit of a shock but not as bad as people would think and now, looking back, I think perhaps because I was so young at the time, that helped.
In the days, months and years that followed I underwent vigorous cancer treatment and to be honest, it was the hardest part. I was in hospital every three weeks receiving chemotherapy for a year and then every three months in the second year and then finally in the third year I was given the green light from my doctor to stop the treatment. It was a long three years but by 1983 aged 14, I was hugely relieved to finally be able to start regaining some strength.
Life After Cancer
It wasn't long before I started playing football again, I pushed myself hard even back then and quickly started playing using one crutch. Next I taught myself to ride my BMX and then at school threw myself into as much sport as possible. I had a great PE teacher at my local high school and he always made a point of including me when others were playing sport. I joined in with everything he threw at me which included volleyball, basketball and swimming. When the other kids were out playing rugby, football and hockey I used to go to the gym and lift weights. It started well but it wasn't long before someone made fun of me and I lost my confidence. It knocked me back a lot.
Discovering Amputee Football
Confidence in myself has definitely been my biggest struggle although this has changed enormously since I discovered amputee football. I first heard about amputee football after reading about it in a magazine at a prosthetics centre. I immediately contacted the organisers to see if there was anywhere in Scotland I could play, but at the time it was only happening in England. I went down for what I thought was a taster session just to see what it was like, but next thing you know I was being given an Everton shirt and told I was playing in defence...so that's what I did! It was a brilliant introduction to how physical and fast the game actually was. I loved it and it well and truly kicked off my career. I played for Everton for one season and then we introduced it at my local football club to try and get the sport into Scotland and it grew from there. Now there is not only The Amputee Football Club in Scotland but there is also the Amputee Football Association in Scotland who work alongside the Scottish FA so it's safe to say the response has been brilliant and I know it will only continue to grow.
I'm incredibly proud of the way the sport has grown, my personal career highlight was definitely becoming Captain of Scotland's Amputee Football team and also completing a half marathon on my Cool Crutches, to raise money for a wonderful charity called Finding Your Feet who work to support families affected by amputation.
For anyone considering amputee football...do it! Don't be scared to try it, once you have the bug you will love it and even better than that, the friendships I have made through the sport are amazing.
Outside of football, my wife, daughters and my dogs are everything. My wife in fact is also an amputee. After an ankle injury, surgery to replace her ankle and then rehab she very sadly suffered extensively with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Last year she made the difficult decision to have her foot amputated, it was an incredibly tough situation but she was living with a constant stabbing and burning pain in her foot which was heartbreaking to watch. I think my experience has definitely offered some support to Valerie and I feel incredibly proud of her for embracing her amputation with such confidence. To know she is pain free and happy again is a huge relief!
Living with Crutches
Crutches are and always will be a distraction to strangers, there's no denying that people can and do treat you differently when you're on them. A lot of people look at you when you're out and about on one leg and crutches and even when someone has two legs and crutches. People are always curious as to why I use them so having my Personalised Cool Crutches has helped me to give them something else to look at!
I chose Cool Crutches because I was running a half marathon and wanted something different and ideally personalised. I designed my own pair and I have to say they have completely changed my view of mobility aids. I just love that they provide a choice outside of the grey NHS crutches and that they can support me during a marathon!
Following my half marathon last year, I was inspired to join 6 others to set up a team (3 amputees) and raise money for Finding Your Feet by completing their 2 Million Step Challenge. Over 28 days we have just completed 2 million steps. Out of 20 teams we came 4th and I personally did over 376,000 steps over 28 days mostly on one leg using my Cool Crutches. It was an enormous challenge but it felt incredible to support such a brilliant cause!
What I've Learnt
When I look back on my life I'm acutely aware of how far everything has come. When I lost my leg the resources available were limited, I used to travel nearly two hours to get to the prosthetic hospital in Edinburgh (who were fantastic) in order to try anything and everything the team would let me! Now there are so many more choices but you just need to find what's right for you to give you the strength and confidence to live the life you want.
If I could give any advice it would be to be strong, don't give up and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Life is so short, just try to live every day as it comes and ignore any idiots who make fun of you because that's exactly what they are! I definitely wasted too many years thinking about other people's feelings rather than my own and would hope that I can help to prove to others that amputation is by no means the end of the road. There is a life after amputation and it's brilliant!
Thank you so much to Brian for sharing his story, we are in awe of his determination and motivation and feel incredibly lucky he chose Cool Crutches.
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