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Brave filmmaker 'I have suffered 100 broken bones but I won’t let being disabled hold me back'

Genetic condition inspired film on overcoming adversity

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Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch

BBC NI

Chris Lynch meets Samantha Renke for the film

Chris Lynch meets Samantha Renke for the film

BBC NI

Stafford Lynn and Jean Daly Lynn

Stafford Lynn and Jean Daly Lynn

BBC NI

Advance: Chris tries out the new Segway-style wheelchair

Advance: Chris tries out the new Segway-style wheelchair

BBC NI

Chris Lynch is a qualified drone pilot

Chris Lynch is a qualified drone pilot

BBC NI

Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch

BBC NI

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Chris Lynch

A MAN whose genetic conditions led to him suffering 100 broken bones during his life has revealed why it hasn’t prevented him leading a happy life.

Chris Lynch (38) was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta when he was a baby, and now he’s made a film on how he overcame adversity.

And in True North: The Disability Paradox, Chris also tackles the perception by many non-disabled people that people with disabilities have a poor quality of life.

In the film, Chris speaks to Brian Gault, who was affected by thalidomide, actress and disabled activist Samantha Renke, and disabled married couple Stafford and Jean Daly Lynn, asking them if they can ever truly be happy if they are disabled.

Speaking of his childhood and the challenges he faced due to his condition, Chris said: “When I was six weeks old I was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta. With the condition, the degrees of severity range from mild, people who may suffer one or two broken bones during their lifetime, to severe, where people will break 300-to-400 bones or more.

“In the worst cases, some children don’t even make it past birth. I’ve had around 100 breaks, which puts me in the moderate to severe category.”

Adopted as a baby, Chris says his condition threw up several challenges, especially for his adoptive parents as they came to grips with it.

“When I was just six weeks old my mum was bouncing me up and down and I started screaming. She took me to a neighbour who was a doctor and they said to take me to hospital immediately. When we got there the doctors at the hospital told my mum that I had fractures.

“As a result both my parents had red flags put on their files, as the authorities feared it may have been the result of child abuse.

“From their perspective there was no other reasonable explanation as to why a child should have multiple fractures. However, this was ruled out when the diagnosis was made, which thankfully came very quickly.

“It was unfortunate that my parents had to go through that and have that question mark put on them, and many parents still do today. Throughout my childhood I went through this constant cycle of being in hospital or off my feet.

“I had great support and my parents were fantastic, and primary school was very supportive as well. We just adapted and did whatever we could to get by.”

At the age of six Chris began using a wheelchair, but as his documentary shows, the advancement of technology means a new two-wheeled self-balancing wheelchair, which operates similarly to a Segway, will allow Chris to tackle off-road trails and beaches which he has never been able to tackle in a conventional wheelchair.

Passions

Chris spoke of how filling his own life with his passions helped him thrive in challenging circumstances.

Having run several successful business, Chris has a strong passion for music and has even DJ’d in Ibiza. Among other interests he is also a licensed drone pilot.

“I haven’t let my disability hold me back in life. Whatever hurdles I’ve faced, I just find a way to get over them.

“Yet I feel this film really has a universal appeal. I’m looking at mental health and the pursuit of happiness, and I think that is important to everyone, whether disabled or not. The more things you have to distract you the less time you have to keep you unhappy.

“I think the film will be relatable to everyone who’s going through difficult time.”

The aspiring filmmaker also worked as part of the team who produced the documentary, adding filmmaking – for the BBC no less – to his repertoire of expertise.

Speaking of working on the show, Chris said: “It was fantastic being in front of, and behind, the camera for the documentary, and great to apply the skills that I’ve developed and get hands-on experience.

“I love the industry and being a part of it, especially the creativity of the whole thing, to work on something for a long time and watch it come to life.”

Speaking of the almost taboo subject of the happiness of those with disabilities, Chris says he hopes the shifting sands of society’s recognition of minority groups in the last few years will stretch as far as those living with disabilities.

“We’re living in radical times, with shift changes happening and diversity at the forefront. The more we address these issues, the easier it will be to have conversations like that which is addressed in the film.

“Recently many groups have profited from these conversations, like the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBT community, and that’s great as long as that continues and reaps a more equal society.

“But on the face of it, there’s still so much work to be done in the disability community. One in five people have a disability, and if you look at daily life here, that figure isn’t represented truly. There’s not enough being done to level the playing field. We’re going in the right direction, but we have to be able to ask these pertinent questions.”

Chris also explained how growing up around able-bodied people helped his development, but as his friends began to settle down and have kids, mental health issues began to creep into his life.

“Looking at my own experience, I went to mainstream education, and I wasn’t growing up around other disabled people. I had a big problem in terms of the acceptance of my own disability. In my 20s and 30s I was out partying a lot, which was great.

“This was an amazing distraction, but on the tail end of the partying, people around me began settling down, getting married and having kids. That’s when it really hit me that I was different, that things would pan out for me in a different way.

“Then depression was coming to the fore. So that’s one of the reasons I wanted to look at the direct link between disability and happiness. I went on the pursuit of others with disabilities and explored their stories. It was very much a personal journey for me.”

Speaking of how other disabled people approached the subject of happiness and quality of life, Chris added: “For the most part, everyone I spoke to seemed to be pretty content. That was a hard thing for me to understand. They have good careers, relationships and other things that fill their lives that takes their mind off their disability.

“It was a really interesting journey, with a lot of good takeaways for me. I’m really glad that I did it, and it was comforting to feed off the positivity and energy of others. I certainly have no regrets about the film.”

jamie.mcdowell@sundayworld.com

Online Editors


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