CP no barrier to Great Wall climb

Taylor Walker-Lear knows how to embrace a challenge.

The Year 5 student at St Bernard’s Catholic Primary Botany will climb a 10-kilometre section of the Great Wall of China in June, just six months after surgery to straighten her legs.

Taylor, 11, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at age 2. The condition affects communication between her brain and legs, making it difficult to walk. In September, doctors operated on her tendons and grafted bone from her hip to the outsides of each of her feet to improve her balance.

“It’s been really good,” she said. “I’ve seen that my legs have really improved from before.

“They lengthened the tendons in my thighs, hip flexors, hamstring and achilles, broke my feet, took bone from my hip and put that in my feet to straighten them. It has helped me with my walking and balance.”

Taylor said the Great Wall climb became her next goal during the drive home from Mt Kosciusko in February last year, where she trekked 18.6 kilometres on a fundraising walk for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. She was the youngest person in the event’s history to reach the mountain’s peak, and will head to Beijing with another person from the Alliance to make the Great Wall climb.

“I don’t even know why exactly I wanted to climb the Great Wall,” Taylor said. “All I know is that it is very big. To prepare I’ve done a lot of swimming, walking, physio, walking up stairs and transferring from my walker to sticks.

Resistance training in the pool is also part of her five-day a week regime. Taylor’s physiotherapist has also climbed the Great Wall and has drawn on knowledge of the steep terrain to prepare her for the climb. Taylor will use sticks instead of a walker for support in order to navigate the many stairs on the wall.

While in China she may deliver a talk at a local school and will also take in sights including the Forbidden City and Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube.

The venue is of great interest to Taylor, who is a strong swimmer and hopes to qualify for the 2020 Paralympic Games to be held in Kyoto, Japan. By then Taylor will be 14, the youngest age needed to qualify for the event.

At a recent carnival post-operation, she shaved three seconds off her personal best time in the 50 metre backstroke event. “I love swimming,” Taylor said. “It was tough but I did well.”

Taylor’s dad Simon and mum Toni Elford are proud of her recovery and goals.

“She’s come back really strong,” Toni said. “Climbing the Great Wall of China is a feat for even the fittest able-bodied adult or child.

“Simon and I are so proud of Taylor and so privileged to be able to take this and every other journey with her.”

To support Taylor’s climb visit this page.

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