A SCHOOLBOY unable to play sports because he suffers from a rare condition which means his body dangerously overheats is wowing seasoned pros after finding the perfect pastime to keep him cool – snowboarding.
Thomas Pettigrew, aged 10, who lives with his mum in Thurcroft, Rotherham, can’t join in sports like football and basketball as his body has very few sweat glands but the ice-cool temperature in his new hobby means he can slide down the slopes to his heart’s content.
His parents live in fear of a summer heatwave as Thomas’ body finds it difficult to cool naturally – meaning he has to sit out most PE lessons and restrict even riding his bike to the bare minimum.
But the sport-loving lad – one of just 7,000 people in the world who suffer from hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia – was desperate to find an activity he could enjoy without abandoning it when the heat got too much.
Dad Richard, 36, who works at a time cards company, had the idea of taking Thomas snowboarding in March last year and the schoolboy hasn’t looked back, getting good enough to join in freestyling events where he can perform tricks and jumps.
As other youngsters look forward to playing outside in the sunshine, Thomas is plying his new trade at the SNO!Zone in Castleford, West Yorkshire, where temperatures of -5C and 1500 tonnes of snow mean he can snowboard free from the risk of overheating.
Richard, who lives in Doncaster, said: “When Thomas tries most sports he has to stop when he gets too hot, but that never happens with snowboarding. He might just take off a layer of clothes but that’s it.
“I was surprised how good he was when he started. He fell over like most people do when they start, but he got right back up again. He was quick picking up the basics.
“He’d never considered snowboarding before but after having some lessons to get him going he was hooked and now goes every week for three or four hours.
“He’s been so enthusiastic about his snowboarding that he’s even persuaded me to have a go so we can enjoy it together but I’m not quite up to his standard.”
Thomas’ worried parents have spent the past 10 years watching the schoolboy for any signs of overheating, only taking him on holiday in cooler months.
Richard said: “He gets lethargic if he overheats and he used to disappear and we would find him lying on a floor cooling down.
“We do whatever it takes to cool his temperature, cooling sprays, putting him in the car with the air conditioner blasting, cold baths and we’ve always got a paddling pool out in summer.”
Richard entered a competition to win a year-long slope pass at SNO!zone last year and gave his prize to Thomas, who still has to go to hospital regularly for check-ups.
HED is more common among boys than girls and like most sufferers Thomas, who lives with mum Kerry Russ, 32, a call centre worker, was diagnosed soon after birth when it became clear he was overheating.
It is a genetic disorder which affects the development or function of the teeth, hair, nails and sweat glands.