Courageous James plans to graduate

A FORMER Aboyne Academy pupil plans to graduate from The Robert Gordon University later this year after battling his entire life against a degenerative and incurable condition.

James Philp, 21, who is registered disabled, was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) when he was six. The condition affects the body's collagen and leads to symptoms including fatigue, fragile skin, soft joints, which dislocate easily, and bones which could fracture.

James' older brother Alex, 23, also suffers the condition although he is affected differently. Their older brother Simon, 37, does not have the condition.

Their mother Judi has been Scottish representative of The Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Support Group for the last 10 years. She said: "It affects everything with James, if you went to hug him you could dislocate his shoulder. Alex is affected differently although he fatigues easily too and his ligaments tend to be weak,

"EDS can vary greatly within families and there are roughly 30 families in Scotland affected by the condition although there could be more undiagnosed cases."

The condition has meant James has had to have a scribe to write all his university and school exams for him, because his fingers dislocate when he tries to write and he has never been able to participate in contact sports.

James, a former Torphins Primary and Aboyne Academy pupil, said: "The pain is not too bad and I mostly experience fatigue. I have to take medication for my heart,

"The course has been physically difficult but I have had a lot of support from my lecturers and I have enjoyed it."

James, who undertook a placement with Dyce based Marine Technology Solution specialists, Nautronix, hopes to work for a similar company in the future but is also considering a PhD.

However, having EDS means things are always a bit different for James.

"I went for an interview and the interviewer shook my hand tightly causing my fingers to dislocate," said James.

Alex will graduate this summer with a Bachelors in Architecture from The Robert Gordon University, but has further studies to complete before he can fulfil his dream of becoming an architect.

James has been studying for a MEng in Electronic Engineering for the past four years. Due to his condition he is often very tired and works mostly from a laptop from his bed, as that is where he is most comfortable.

Swimming is the brothers' only option for exercise, but James and Alex cannot withstand the low temperatures in local public pools. In 2000 Mr and Mrs Philp had a hydrotherapy pool, set to a temperature of 35 degrees celsius year round, installed in their house - thanks in part to generous donations from Piper readers - who supported the boys' cause after the Piper highlighted their condition.

Other people, who have been referred by medical staff, have also used the pool, which measures approximately 8ft by 13ft and contains eight and a half tonnes of water.

James and Alex at the ages of 13 and 15 respectively also helped to raise funds for the hydrotherapy pool by starting a business making and selling jewellery from semi-precious stones. Over the years the business has grown and the family now run a shop, Treasures, in Kincardine O'Neil.

The Philp family thanked the members of the local community for their support and kindness over the years.