Amy Keogh is the proud achiever of the highest level of a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), the Gold Award. Her DofE journey began in 2012 when she chose to take part in her Bronze programme through her school, Hamstead Hall Academy. At the time she was recovering from a left knee dislocation with weekly visits to the physiotherapist and simultaneously, having further tests to see if there was a wider issue. Eventually she was diagnosed with patella alta (knee caps developing out of and above the joints) and trochlear dysplasia (knee caps being vulnerable to dislocation). In light of this, she approached her DofE Leader to inform him of her situation who, unsure of how serious her condition was and how it might impact the physical side of her programme, reluctantly allowed her to continue with her DofE application. Amy began her Volunteering section, helping out at a Beaver Scout group and Skills section, working with children with special educational needs.
During the summer of 2012, Amy was experiencing painful subluxations (partial dislocations) in her knees on a daily basis but despite this, she began her practice expedition. By day two her knees had subluxated more than in any other single day before and she was forced to pull out of the expedition early. Amy explained; “This was hard to deal with emotionally as well as physically and it made me really consider whether or not to go ahead with my qualifying expedition.” However, after being told by her surgeon that she would need both knees reconstructed in the following year, Amy decided to take the challenge and successfully completed her expedition, to achieve her Bronze Award.
The majority of the following year consisted of intensive physiotherapy for Amy. Having had both knees rebuilt over a period of nine months, she needed to learn how to walk again and build muscle strength. She commented; “By the time I had recovered from my operations, the opportunity to do my Silver DofE with my school had been and gone and I was concerned I wouldn’t be capable of achieving my Gold.”
Three years after joining the Beaver Scouts as a volunteer, Amy was approached by her Group Scout Leader who asked if she wanted to join a Scout group who were doing their Gold programmes. Amy was still attending weekly physiotherapy sessions and six-weekly surgery reviews during this time and was advised against taking part by her practitioners as the operations had left her with Crepitus (a condition similar to Arthritis which causes friction between bone and cartilage). It was also less than 12 months since her last operation and it was thought that any physically intensive activity may leave untold damage on her body. Amy went on to explain; “I took this devastating information back to my Group Scout Leader and thanked him for the opportunity but explicitly said that it was never going to happen for me. The year passed and I watched as my closest friends achieved their Gold Awards; I was extremely proud and happy for them but at the same time jealous that I wasn’t a part of it.”
In June 2014, Amy’s Group Scout Leader approached her again encouraging her to take up her Gold programme and this time convinced her to sign up as she was already doing activities that could count towards her Volunteering, Physical and Skills sections. She had also already signed up to attend a residential that summer so the only section left to complete was the expedition. Amy added; “My Group Scout Leader put together a team from across Birmingham County and applied for me to have special circumstances on my expedition so that it could be an experience that was challenging but possible for me to complete. I agreed to do a practice day hike to test the waters. I found that my limit was three to four hours of walking a day so the practice expedition was based around this and the remaining amount of the eight hours a day was spent doing project work.”
Amy’s practice expedition in the Peak District allowed her to get to know her teammates; the majority of which she had only met for the first time on the expedition itself, and it gave her the confidence to go on to do her qualifying expedition in Snowdonia, as she recalled; “The practice expedition was in no way smooth sailing but it pulled us together and gave me the belief that actually, this might be possible. I went into my qualifying expedition full of hope and trust in my teammates to support me through it, which they did brilliantly.”
Speaking about her whole DofE experience, Amy concluded; “I genuinely believe that my Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards were the hardest things I’ve ever done but one of the achievements I am most proud of. If someone had told me back in 2013 that within two years of my last operation I would have completed my Gold DofE, I wouldn’t have believed them. I had no idea that the DofE could be so accessible and tailor-made to suit my individual needs but it is. It’s helped me in more than just my physical abilities; it’s increased my self-confidence, provided me a career in Scouting and helped me in my day job too.”
Sharing her advice to other young people thinking about doing their DofE, Amy said; “For anyone doubting their abilities to complete their DofE at any level, I would highly recommend them looking into it with an accepting and understanding DofE Leader (they’re not too hard to find!). If I can do it, you can too!”
Amy is currently undertaking a Level 3 apprenticeship in childcare and works full-time at a women’s refuge.