Teenager beats devastating virus to shine in martial arts

Inspiring stuff from the York Press:

BATTLING teenager Alfie Barlow is a beacon of defiance who is sparkling in the full-on world of martial arts.

The youngster is due to be awarded his orange belt in kick-boxing at York’s Multi Masters Academy tonight as he steps up training sessions towards possible competition.

But two years ago, at the age of 11, Alfie was in York Hospital unable to move his arms and legs and confined to a wheelchair as a mystery virus took hold.

His parents Debbie and Kevin admitted to being devastated by the disease that paralysed their son. Alfie spent eight weeks in hospital and a total of six months in a wheelchair.

But they remained positive as did Alfie, whose determination to make a full recovery now sees him tackle twice-weekly training sessions at the Multi Masters Academy of martial arts in Layerthorpe.

“When the illness happened I lost a bit of self-confidence. I didn’t know if I would get better, but I wanted so hard to recover,” said the Canon Lee School pupil.

“Coming here to Multi Masters has improved me a lot. They’ve been good to me and I am getting much fitter and better.”

His parents said: “When a friend asked him to go to the Multi Masters Academy he was a bit dubious at first.

“But that soon changed when he started and met Daz Catterson (coach) and all the other members.

“His training techniques are brilliant and we can’t believe how much Alfie’s fitness and confidence has improved since joining Multi Masters.”

Alfie’s current state of health is far removed from two years ago when the former Wigginton Grasshoppers footballer woke up one morning at his Clifton home and couldn’t walk.

He was admitted to York Hospital and started to lose all movement in his arms as well as the ability to swallow. He lost two stone in weight and had to undergo intensive physiotherapy.

Mr Barlow said: “He had various tests which showed that a virus had affected the enzymes in his muscles which stopped them from working.

“We were devastated. It was horrendous. The worst thing was they never knew what type of virus it was.”

Hailing the “tremendous” efforts of the physiotherapy department, Mr Barlow recalled how Alfie said he was determined he would start secondary school at Canon Lee in September 2010 walking unaided.

That target was achieved.

Mr Barlow said: “I don’t think we thought he would not make it. I always look on the positive side and so does he.

“And he hasn’t looked back since he went to Multi Masters. He goes twice a week and Daz has been great with him.”

Mr Catterson, who is also senior coach for Great Britain, said: “Alfie’s a smashing kid. He spars like everybody else and he has said he is up for competing. He has shown such a lot of courage.”