A study in determination

By Ridgely Ingeresoll 

Long-time CHKD patient and college student Eric Ingram revels in the challenges of quad rugby.
Long-time CHKD patient and college student Eric Ingram revels in the challenges of quad rugby.

Long-time readers of Kidstuff last saw Eric Ingram, 19, of Norfolk, as an impish toddler perched atop a therapy ball in the 1992 issue of Kidstuff. Since then, he’s had more than a dozen surgeries at CHKD for issues related to a rare genetic disorder, Freeman-Sheldon syndrome. He has also graduated from Granby High School and is enrolled at Old Dominion University, where he is a sophomore studying aerospace engineering.

Eric is a smart young man with a quick sense of humor, 753 friends on Facebook and a passion for zipping around basketball courts in an armor-plated wheelchair playing quadriplegic or “quad” rugby, a game that also goes by the descriptive name of “murderball.”

“The purpose of the game is to carry a ball down a basketball court to cross a goal line,” Eric explains. “To stop other players from scoring or getting the ball, we’re allowed to make full wheelchair-to-wheelchair contact.”

Fortunately, Eric is hard to catch in his orange-wheeled conveyance. “My nickname is Flea, because I’m small, quick and annoying on the court,” he says.

At age 16, Eric was introduced to quad rugby at a summer camp for wheelchair basketball. “It was love at first play. When we got home, a friend and I started a team.”

Today, Eric is captain of the 8-member East Coast Cripplers, the only quad rugby team in Virginia. “Last year, we made nationals,” he said, “which is amazing for such a young team. We’re now ranked 16th in the nation.”

National competitions occur under the auspices of the U.S. Quad Rugby Association (motto: smashing stereotypes, one hit at a time), which this year named Eric to its B-team and sent him to Brazil to compete against players from Europe and South America.

ric says he hopes his success can inspire other CHKD patients to keep pushing for their personal best. “I tried so many sports. Tennis, basketball, track. It took a trip to Georgia and trying a sport I’d never even heard of for me to find the thing I’m most passionate about.

“Try. Do as much as you can do. And if you really want to do something, don’t let anyone tell you no.”

Eric Ingram was first featured in a 1992 issue of Kidstuff. This story was featured in the fourth quarter 2009 issue of KidStuff, a publication of Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.