Being a part of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am games is the last place second-year Humber College Recreation and Leisure student Andrew Tucker saw himself a few years ago.
Two years ago, Tucker faced one of the hardest times in his life. He got very sick resulting in the loss of his right leg from the knee down.
Doctors confirmed that he had a rare blood disease that attacked his kidneys causing them to stop functioning, ultimately leaving him unable to recover from an ankle infection.
Tucker attended Sheridan College in 2011 and made the varsity volleyball team. Unfortunately, in September of that year, he started feeling very fatigued and fell behind in school, eventually leading to him to drop out.
“Night after night, I kept having nightmares and I couldn’t explain why. It was at night that I’d develop a fever,” said Tucker.
After being in and out of the hospital, in February of 2012, Tucker was admitted to hospital in a medicated coma right before April when he found out he had to have the leg amputated. “When I was in Brampton I was just thinking, damn, I really want to get better because I just want to go home,” said Tucker.
Despite the sudden shock, Tucker remained relatively optimistic about the entire situation, keeping a great outlook on the fact that he is here now, and that he is thankful for that.
Tucker had met some of the sitting men’s volleyball team in his past (bumping into one of them during his time in rehab) but didn’t feel the timing was right, and didn’t know the opportunity at hand.
Tucker is a well known smiling face that has bigger picture ideas for himself.
It was the push by a friend who met the same member of the sitting team while volunteering for Pan Am who urged Tucker to head out to practice.
“We worked together for S.A.A. (Student Athletic Association) at Humber. The main reason we got closer though, was talking about our injuries,” said Maja Jocson, third-year Kinesiology student at Guelph-Humber.
“Although mine was not nearly as drastic as his, he always made me feel tough. He was always supportive of me at my games, so when I met up with Jason from the men’s team, I thought of Tuck right away. I knew he had the skills, and so I thought, it’s his turn now.”
What started with practicing with a few men from Toronto led to his attendance at the training camp over Thanksgiving weekend and eventually getting an offer for a position on the national team.
“When I started off playing I didn’t think I was that great, it was kind of difficult moving around. But, I played volleyball before so I had good hands and forearm passing,” said Tucker.
Being involved with the Games and Para Sport Ontario, Tucker said that one of his aspirations is to be involved with the organization. He agrees with their mission and what the program is about. He would love to promote paralympians and promote the sport and get as much awareness as possible for his passion.
Now, Tucker is looking into a wider range of sports than just sitting volleyball. He is starting training with cross-country and has hopes of playing wheelchair basketball.
“He’s a very young, talented individual with a good head on his shoulder,” said Jesse Buckingham, a teammate on the national siting volleyball team.
As for advice Tucker has, “what I can say is that, if you want to make a change, it’s all on you. People can only inspire you so much, it’s all eventually up to you.”