• Matt Ryle Photography

Losing the ability to walk, Incredible story's from West Sussex Head shot photography sessions

In all the years of Head shot photography here in West Sussex with all the different faces and personalities I have meet from around the country there aren't many stories that shock me any more. On this particular photo shoot a young actress Jazz who is currently studding musical theater at Chichester University certainly caught me off guard with her incredible story from a few years back.

I knew I wouldn't be able to do the story justice so instead I asked Jazz to write down the terrifying events that that unfolded. What she went through would be enough to make most of us give up, not get up and dance.

For more information on West Sussex head shot photography that I do or to see Jazz's portfolio session that we did visit

"I initially suffered with a severe throat infection"

"I was in a lot of pain in both of my legs and only thought it to be bad muscle soreness"

"After trying to adjust and get up I noticed my legs weren't moving"

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Jazz's Story

"My name is Jazz Nottingham and I'm 22 years old. 

I never initially considered musical theatre to be a career path I'd choose, but I was always raised in a musical house hold. My dad is a musician who taught me to sing from a very young age and hoped I would grow up to be a singer/songwriter. I started to come into my own during secondary school, staying in the music department during lunches to write and learn piano. Whenever there was a school performance or musical to audition for, I would always take part. I started to experience the world of musical theatre when I attended Stagecoach also, which landed me jobs in the touring shows of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Wiz. Although I loved performing in these shows, I still always thought I would go down the pop singing route.

It wasn't until I watched The Lion King on the west end at 17 where I truly realised the magic of musical theatre. For those 2 hours I watched it, I completely escaped into the world on that stage. It felt so cathartic knowing that everything that was going on in my life completely slipped away and I felt pure joy seeing everyone perform on stage. All I could think of after watching it was how much I'd love to be one of those performers who provide an escape for people, even if it only helped one person. I believe that theatre is therapy now, both to the performer and the audience.

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After GCSE's, I knew I wanted to take a creative route for university so took theatre studies as a class for 6th form, however after I realised this wasn't for me, I left to attend college and study musical theatre. I believed that it would provide me well rounded training vocally and physically, so that if I were to go back down the pop singing route, I would still feel prepared. I studied Level 3 Musical Theatre at Northampton College and initially wanted to drop out with the level of intensity it had. I hated it. I wanted to see it through till the end of the year so that I could at least receive grades from it. We had a show half way through the year and that joy of performing made me realise how much the training was worth it. So after the show I decided that I would stay determind and stay through to the end of the course.

Then I lost the ability to walk.

It came on very suddenly in a dance class about 2 weeks after the show. I initially suffered with a severe throat infection after feeling run down from the show but after some medication I was starting to recover. In jazz and ballet, I was in a lot of pain in both of my legs and only thought it to be bad muscle soreness; maybe I pulled something? maybe I overstretched? I'm probably just fatigued from the show.

While sitting out and taking notes I noticed my legs feeling hotter and hotter, like a strange burning sensation mixed in with pins and needles. After trying to adjust and get up I noticed my legs weren't moving. I couldn't move my legs.

Northampton College was a 3 hour bus journey from my house with a few changes. I was convinced that maybe they were ceased up muscles so I had help from my friend to get me to shuffle to my first bus. the pain was excruciating. On the bus back home, I decided to get a full check of what was going on with my legs, it was only then I noticed they were swollen, and continuing to swell, with extremely red blotches. The pain was getting too much, so the bus stopped and I an ambulance was called.

The doctors couldn't work out what was happening and I was only getting worse, My legs were starting to blister from the inside out and it was suspected that I had contracted meningitis so was put in quarantine. I was terrified for my life. Doctors were telling me and my family to prepare for the darkest situations: permanently losing the ability to walk, or just never getting better and it potentially being fatal.

After a few weeks of testing, they discovered that from my prior throat infection, my immune system began attacking itself and developed Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis. Vasculitis is a rare autoimmune disease in which the blood vessels inflame which can constrict blood supply to tissues and organs. It can develop uniquely depending on the person in varying locations. I had it initially develop in my arms, legs and back. Depending on the person however, it can affect vital organs also. Vasculitis so far has an unknown cause and although it is not curable, it is treatable.

Like I said earlier in this, I believe that theatre is therapy now, both to the performer and the audience.

I started off small, using physio and steroid treatment to aid my recovery. I used performing as my motivator to get myself out of a wheelchair to get myself dancing again. I missed a whole term of assessments at college however the second show of the year was coming up and I still wanted to be part of it. I spent a bit of time each day on crutches when I had the strength. However vasculitis comes with a whole heap of extra challenges to face, such as chronic fatigue, nerve problems and depression. The progress was small but after a while I was beginning to spend more time on crutches than in a wheelchair. I went to college just in time for the show auditions. I couldn't dance but still put myself forward for the role of Motermouth Maybelle for the Hairspray portion of our show so that I could sing "I know where I've been", which related to me a lot at the time. After my audition against quite a few others, I received the role.

It gave me that extra boost I needed. I started to do more physio at college, and do seconds of dance routines whenever I felt I could. I was determined to do dance parts of the show and show people how much I got better. By the time it got to the show, I would go on stage, do my dance routine, then remain on crutches the remainder of the evening or whenever I got too fatigued. Since then I have only improved in my physical strength, though still have the symptoms and occasional flare up in which I cannot walk for a while. But I believe that without having musical theatre and a goal to be on stage and get the grades I need, I would not have recovered nearly as fast as I did. It overall took me about a year to get into a recovered state, and in that time I had just finished college.

I finished with a triple distinction grade, acceptance into two stage schools and an award from the college themselves for my grade considering my circumstances.

I went on to do a gap year to carry on improving my health and fitness alongside saving up for stage school. I was later accepted into The University of Chichester Conservetoire onto the BA Hons Triple Threat Course and am currently in my second year. The training is on a whole new level and I have enjoyed every challenge both mental and physical it has given me as I know I can only be rewarded from it.

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The desire to perform has been one of the main drives of my life. When I graduate university, all I hope is to be on stage to maybe inspire young audiences to fall in love with performing as I did. It saved me from tremendous heartache and escaping into a different role would sometimes help inspire me on how I can deal with my own situations. I only hope it can provide that to someone else. In terms of career paths, I hope to experience different projects and contracts, ranging from small independent projects to West End and Cruise ships. In between jobs, I hope to begin training as a drama teacher to help children gain their confidence and find their craft in the arts.

I would also like to raise awareness for those with autoimmune diseases and disabilities who still follow their dreams and don't feel like their capabilities are limited.

I am still recovering, but I am proud of the milestones I have made. And I would not have done that without the stage. "

I hope you enjoyed Jazz's story, I thought it was amazing.

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