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Epilepsy Society residents go skiing

Created:

3 April 2018

Professor Matthias Koepp is training to be an adaptive snowsport instructor so that he can share the thrill of the slopes with the residents with epilepsy and other complex needs at Epilepsy Society. Recently, with help from Epilepsy Society's activities team, he took 3 of the residents skiing at Hemel Hempstead's Snow Centre. Watch our video of the day at the bottom of the page.

Sam and Teddy are on the sit-ski as Prof Koepp explains

Sam and Teddy test out the sit-ski

The activities team at Epilepsy Society have been working through taking each of the 100 residents living in the six houses in Buckinghamshire to the indoor slope each week; this week it was the turn of Sam, Tamsin and Ben.  After arriving and getting into the skiing gear, Sam, Tamsin and Ben got ready to brave the 160m real snow slope.

Sam, a first time skier, was first to try the sit-ski. With his teddy bear sat at the front for confidence, Professor Koepp showed  Sam how he could influence the direction of the ski by leaning his body weight from side to side.

With help from Artur in Epilepsy Society's activities team, the professor and Sam ascended the ski lift. With Professor Koepp on skis at the rear of the sit-ski, controlling Sam's direction and journey down the slope, Sam began his first experience of skiing.

Sam and Prof Koepp ski down the slope

Sam and Prof Koepp pick up speed down the 160m slope

Although initially apprehensive to try the sit-ski, once Sam got a taste of the slope he was keen to try again, building confidence with each turn and even experiencing the fun of a 360 degree spin with the help of Professor Koepp. It's safe to say that Sam will be back on the mini-bus to Hemel Hempstead soon!

Through adaptive snowsport, even the residents in wheelchairs can experience the breathtaking fun of gliding down the slopes at speed. As they practice and build confidence, some people will be able to progress to stand-up on the slopes, where as those in sit-skis can practice and develop more advanced balance and control. Neurologist Professor Matthias Koepp has been looking after residents at the charity for nearly 20 years, trying to ensure they have the best quality of life by fine tuning their medication and ensuring they have the best possible care.

Artur helps an excited Tamsin and Prof Koepp onto the ski lift

Artur helps an excited Tamsin and Prof Koepp onto the ski lift

Prof Koepp said: ‘As a neurologist your aim is to give people maximum seizure control with minimum side effects. I try to fine tune our residents’ medication so that they can have the best quality of life possible. But at the end of the day, I cannot cure their epilepsy or take their disability away.

‘I am a passionate skier and have enjoyed many trips to the mountains with my family. There is a wonderful sense of freedom and liberation as you speed down a snow covered mountainside with the cold air cutting your face and a dazzling blue sky above.

Ben surprises Prof Koepp as he gains confidence, leaning into the turns

Ben surprises Prof Koepp as he gains confidence, leaning into the turns

‘How wonderful would it be for our residents to also enjoy this experience, to leave their disability at the bottom of the slope and enjoy the pure thrill of speed, snow and the whoosh of the mountain air.

‘I am training to be an adaptive snowsport instructor so that I can get on the slopes with our residents and enjoy the thrill of ski-ing together.'

Disability Snowsport UK visited Epilepsy Society recently to give residents a taste of life on the slopes. Professor Koepp continued: 'They were able to transfer from their wheelchairs and enjoy sitting in a sit ski, rolling from side to side for a completely different experience. The joy on their faces was immense.'