From wheelchair to top-flight competition

Modderfontein's Greg Burns has overcome massive odds to compete in the SA men's championship.
Modderfontein's Greg Burns has overcome massive odds to compete in the SA men's championship.
Image: Judy de Vega

After surviving a life-threatening disease which saw him wheelchair-bound for six months, Greg Burns competed in his seventh national bowls competition this week at the Warwick Bowls SA Men’s Championship in Port Elizabeth.

Burns, of Modderfontein Bowls Club, hopes to do well in the singles today after he fell out in the last-16 of the pairs on Thursday.

The 18-year-old from Gauteng was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis – a flesh-eating bacteria – that results in the deterioration of the body’s soft tissue, when he was 13 years old.

This was due to an appendix operation that went wrong when he was three years old.

The illness affected the right side of his entire body, which resulted in Burns being wheelchair-bound for six months, an experience which his father Rob Burns described as very traumatic.

Now five years later, Burns has fully recovered and is back on the greens again and has collected a couple of accolades.

He is the two-time JBA National Tournament winner for the fours and pairs, in 2016 and 2018.

“It brings me great joy to see him back on his feet and playing the sport that he loves,” his father said.

“Greg started playing bowls when he was only eight years old.”

Burns said he had had a lovely week in Port Elizabeth.

“This is my seventh national competition.

“Most people complain about the wind in PE, but the weather has been splendid this whole week.

“The tournament has been great. We lost out in the last 16 of the pairs, but I hopeful I will do well in the singles this weekend.”

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