17-year-old respiratory patient Alfie Boote is set to compete at the Junior Slalom White Water Paddling World Championships this year. The prestigious event will be held in Krakow and sees athletes travel from all over the world to compete in the fast-paced and demanding sport. Alfie’s incredible achievement has seen him beat the odds to take part, having suffered severe respiratory complications from birth, including numerous bouts of pneumonia, a collapsed lung and severe asthma.
Alfie, of Stone, said: “I love Slalom because I can learn new things and it’s different every day, which means every time I get into the seat I face a new challenge. I was very young when I first went into hospital and have basically grown up with the paediatric team at UHNM. It’s been a real challenge living with my condition, but the team have helped me a lot and have played a vital role in my life. Really, they are the biggest reason my health is good today and why I’m able to take part in a sport I love.”
Alfie’s mum Suzie spends hours travelling to Nottingham several times a week to take him to his training.
Suzie said: “From pretty much as soon as Alfie was born we noticed he was wheezing a lot. He was first admitted to hospital at just two weeks’ old and since then has suffered multiple bouts of pneumonia and a collapsed lung. Up until the age of five there wasn’t a month that went by when we weren’t in hospital at some point. Fortunately for Alfie, he has had the same team at Royal Stoke look after him all the way through his treatment. But they have done more than just care for him clinically, they’ve supported him at school and helped us emotionally and mentally too.
“Getting into Slalom has really helped Alfie to expand his lungs and he’s had no admissions now for the last two years. He did try other sports, but because of his health complications they just didn’t suit him. Slalom is perfect because it involves using short, sharp bursts of energy, rather than sustained cardiovascular effort. Alfie just lives for the sport. If he’s not training he’s watching videos of other people and picking up tips on how he can improve his performance.”
Canoe Slalom has been an Olympic event since 1972, debuting at the Munich games. Alfie has been training at Stafford and Stone Canoe Club from the age of 12 and is in good company, as the club has helped to produce recent Olympic champion Joe Clarke – winner of the K1M in Rio 2016.
Sadie Clayton is a consultant nurse in the children’s respiratory department at UHNM and is part of the multidisciplinary team that have helped to look after Alfie from the beginning.
Sadie said: “When you care for someone for so long, you get to know them really well, and Alfie is absolutely one of the most determined young men I have ever met. Even from the age of one and struggling to get his breath, he has always been very active. It was clear that, although he had his problems, he was still a very robust child! Of course, in some ways the greater challenges come later in life and in going up to high school. It can be hard to keep up with everyone else, but we’ve supported him as best we can.
“Alfie’s case is definitely something of a rarity – sadly, it’s not very often that a person with a severe respiratory condition is able to lead such an active life. But it’s not just about the physical strength – his personality makes a massive difference too. Alfie has never really indulged in self-pity, he’s always just got on with it.”
Alfie is also looking forward to competing in the ICF Junior and U23 Canoe Slalom race in Slovakia in July 2019.