Inspirational seven-year-old bounces back thanks to Learn to Swim programme

L-R: Swim Coach Mary Weir with Phoebe Lannigan and mum Sandra Lannigan

THE NATIONAL Learn to Swim Framework has helped an inspirational seven-year-old gain her stamina back, after she spent a year in hospital due to a rare form of cancer.

Phoebe Lannigan, from Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis – which caused numerous tumours to develop around her body, including her arm, skull and ribs – when she was just two years old.

She began lessons at Wishaw Sports Centre pool and discovered a love for the sport that has allowed her to make ‘remarkable’ progress to rebuild her health.

After having to embark upon a chemotherapy regime she had to pause her swimming lessons as she spent the year in hospital.

The chemotherapy caused nerve and muscle damage as well as extreme exhaustion and pain, and Phoebe’s stamina became very low as she hadn’t been able to exercise in the time she was receiving treatment.

Through Scottish Water’s Learn to Swim programme, Phoebe is now rediscovering her passion for the sport that has helped her to rebuild her strength and to inspire others in her class.

Phoebe Lannigan at her swimming lessons

Her mother Sandra said: “The lessons have been excellent for Phoebe as she get very sore legs and tired easily. But with swimming, it doesn’t put a lot of stress on her joints or her muscles so is ideal.

“It can take up to two years to build up your fitness after such a long time in treatment, but thanks to her dedicated coach she’s been making some remarkable progress.”

Mary Weir, her swimming teacher, said: “After coming back from her time in hospital, we offered Phoebe one-to-one lessons, and adapted the classes slightly so that she could learn at her own pace and these have made a huge difference.

“Her next goal is to become ‘club ready’ – and she’s keen to progress to the swimming Club to join her 10-year-old sister, Breagha.

“She inspires all the other kids in her class with her determination and the way that she gives everything 100%. Phoebe is an absolute star and my little friend.”

Brian Lironi, Director of Corporate Affairs for Scottish Water, said: “We’re very proud to play our part in helping children like Phoebe and provide similar opportunities to more than 75,000 young people who have so far benefited from the Learn to Swim programme.”

The Learn to Swim Framework helps to create quality learn to swim environments for children from birth upwards where they can become competent, confident and safe swimmers with opportunities to progress through the aquatic pathway or to swim for fun.

The target is to reach 100,000 children across Scotland by 2020.

Fiona Paterson, Participation Programme Manager at Scottish Swimming said: “It’s was fantastic to see Phoebe’s determination and commitment to swimming overcoming adversity and still progressing at a phenomenal rate on the Learn to Swim Framework at North Lanarkshire Leisure.