‘I don’t theink cerebral palsy should define who I am’

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When you hear the jokes that pour from Luke Smith’s mouth, the talented 25-year-old makes comedy seem easy.

But behind the quickfire delivery and wit lies an inspiring story of determination.

Luke Smith

Luke Smith

For Luke was born with a form of cerebral palsy and his movement from the waist down is limited.

Instead of this hindering him, outgoing Luke has begun doing stand-up comedy and he uses his disability as a unique platform in his act.

Luke, who lives in Denvilles, Havant, was born three months premature and his mum, Nicola, experienced a traumatic birth as her son was starved of oxygen after being choked by the umbilical cord being wrapped around his neck.

Soon after he was born, Luke flatlined three times and was immediately taken into intensive care, where he remained for the first six months of his life.

Shortly after he was taken out of intensive care, the doctors told his parents that he would not be able to walk and would be wheelchair-bound.

Defying the odds, Luke started to walk at the age of four.

He says: ‘I took my first shaky steps at the age of four and my mum couldn’t believe it.

‘Because the doctors had said that I wouldn’t walk, my mum was amazed and even thought she’d imagined it.’

Luke had to have physiotherapy twice a day to loosen the nerves in his legs and give him the ability to move his lower body.

School was a difficult period for him and he found himself an easy target for bullies.

He recalls: ‘From what I can remember I was always bullied in school and this was often because of my condition.

‘I used to get both verbal and physical abuse and it used to really upset me. During this time my parents and the rest of my family were my rock.

‘I think it was heartbreaking for them to see me get bullied as they felt that I’d achieved so much in my life already.

‘My mum would always know if there was something wrong and she used to help me through my problems.’

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You can see Luke on stage in his second show at the Fat Fox in Southsea on July 2.

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When Luke attended Portchester Community School, he found an escape from the bullies in the form of drama.

He joined Havant Dynamo Youth Theatre and took part in a number of shows including Oliver The Musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Luke’s favourite production was The Cripple Of Inishmaan, where he had the opportunity to play the lead role – somebody who suffers from cerebral palsy.

He says: ‘This was a lot of fun as I wasn’t being held back by my disability.

‘If anything it was helping me progress further in the role.

‘I would get people coming up to me and complimenting how well I played someone with cerebral palsy.

‘This used to make me laugh and sometimes I would just go along with it!

‘Drama was a lifesaver for me and my first big love and I always thought I’d become an actor.’

After college, Luke lived with his father, Tim.

His parents had got divorced and, sadly, a few years later his mum died.

Luke wanted to continue to progress in drama and went to study creative performing arts at the University of Portsmouth, graduating in 2011.

But after years of having a passion for drama, his spark for the hobby fizzled out and he decided he no longer wanted to spend his life on a theatre stage.

He explains: ‘After university I was burned out from acting and decided I didn’t want to do it any more.

‘I then started volunteering at The Spring arts centre in Havant, working in reception and front of house.’

It was during this time that Luke secured a five-minute slot in the March Comedy Club.

He says: ‘Comedy is something I’ve always wanted to try and when the opportunity came about I wanted to give it a go.

‘I got a lot of support from my family and work colleagues and the performance went really well.

‘All of my family were there and they were so happy that I was doing something that I wanted to do without any restrictions.’

Luke took a big decision by choosing to joke about having cerebral palsy to the crowd of about 70 people.

He explains: ‘It was a risk to joke about having cerebral palsy, but I thought why not take what used to be a negative in my life and turn it into a positive?

‘My dad fully supported me and we both agreed how nice it was to have people laughing with me, not at me.’

Luke says he took a lot of his inspiration from Australian comedian Jim Jefferies.

He says: ‘I believe a disability shouldn’t define who that person is and what that person does. It is just a part of who they are.

‘If I was offered a cure for cerebral palsy, I’d turn it down for the simple fact that I’ve grown up with it from birth.

‘If I woke up one day and I didn’t have it, it would be like a part of me was missing.’

Cerebral palsy is the general term for a number of neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination.

Cerebral palsy can occur in difficult or premature births, a bleed on the brain or an infection caught from the mother.

It is caused by a problem in the parts of the brain responsible for controlling the muscles.

The main symptoms of cerebral palsy include; muscle stiffness or floppiness, muscle weakness, random and uncontrolled body movements and balance and co-ordination problems.

There are different forms of cerebral palsy and people will have different kinds of symptoms.

There is no real cure for the disability, however there are numerous treatments available to relieve the symptoms.

Treatments include physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medical treatment.

Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition and life expectancy is normal.

For more information visit nhs.uk.