‘I can’t believe it – my whole life is going to change for the better. I’m in shock!’
This is how 20-year-old Tia McConnell reacted to the news she’d just won her very own hands-free all-terrain Omeo wheelchair in our fab competition this week. It was an unforgettable moment – not just for Tia but for her mum Denise, brother Jude and girlfriend Abby too.
The family had travelled together from Wiltshire for the surprise announcement in the garden at the Aspire Centre with Tia unaware of where they were really going or why.
She thought they were heading to a birthday lunch for a former colleague of her mum’s.
In fact, they were on their way to meet BBC presenter (and keen Omeo user) Steve Brown – plus AddaptX directors Matt Walker and Cristian Brownlee – to hear the life-changing news.
‘I’ve never won anything before, let alone something like this,’ explains Tia, who has used a wheelchair since 2020. ‘I feel like I’ve had all my life’s luck in this moment, and I honestly can’t believe it!’
Enjoying the Omeo freedom
Tia might not believe it, but it’s true…
She was one of 1,000-plus people who entered AddaptX’s first ever competition to win an Omeo, in which we asked you to tell us how owning an Omeo would change your life.
‘Choosing a winner was really hard,’ says Cristian, who read through every entry with Matt and Adapt Ability team-mate Ian Durrant – but Tia’s entry stood out.
‘We are sure Tia would only be able to enjoy the freedom of an Omeo by winning our competition – and so she has.
‘We’re all so excited for her and send big congratulations from the whole team.’
Opening up a new world
As for Tia, she was over the moon on learning she’d won, having test-driven an Omeo at one of our ‘try me’ days this spring.
‘I loved it,’ she recalls. ‘It was like being able to run again but better. I didn’t even enjoy running as much as I enjoy being on the Omeo.’
Steve, who was (of course) in on Tia’s competition surprise, knows exactly what she means. As he said to her when they met: ‘My Omeo has made a world of difference to me, with work and my lifestyle. The Omeo will open a whole new world for you.’
Tia first heard of the Omeo through Denise, who saw Cristian and Matt’s amazing pitch on BBC1’s Dragons’ Den in February.
‘She thought they were incredible,’ says Tia. ‘She saw how passionate they were about getting this product out, and how many opportunities it would be able to give people like me.’
A life-changing win
So what’s Tia’s story?
As an ‘avid horse rider’ and dancer, she had a very active childhood, and was ‘never in.’
However a slipped disc caused by a ‘freak accident’ at home when she was just 16 led to worsening pain, weakness and immobility leading to a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) diagnosis over the next two years.
Then she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body) in January 2022 and currently has to spend many of her days in bed.
‘You always think it’s never going to happen to you,’ Tia says. ‘To become a full-time wheelchair user at the age of 18… it was really difficult.
‘I had to give up all my career ambitions – I thought I’d never work again, but maybe now I will. The Omeo is going to change everything!’
And how… She’s already planning her first trip back to her local forest in three years – and being able to walk dog Delilah on her own again.
‘It’s so difficult living in a world that’s so inaccessible,’ Tia concludes. ‘The Omeo just breaks down all the barriers and runs them over. I can’t wait – I’m going to access the world again!’