A woman disabled by a fall on the way to her thirtieth birthday party is now competing in national wheelchair tennis competitions.

Seven years ago Epping born Sarah Bard tumbled down a flight of stairs in a birthday accident that combined with the hereditary motor sensory neuropathy she was born with to leave her wheelchair bound.

From an independent and full life, she became dependent on carers, in a wheelchair and unable to leave her home alone.

She battled with depression, anxiety, severe weight gain and the chronic pain of her disease.

Her life turned around however when a friend took Ms Bard to Paralympic taster session near her current home in Nottingham, where she discovered a love of wheelchair tennis.

She lost three stone and was awarded a Roma Sport Tennis Wheelchair, by the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust, and financial support to train in Loughborough with Martyn Whait, a Tennis Foundation National Coach.

The 37 year-old said: "I was utterly without hope, where even the smallest task was difficult. I couldn’t see the point of my life if I could make no contribution to the world.

"My friends are wonderful and understanding, but when you’re depressed and in pain it takes so much effort just to be part of a conversation, and I felt I had to hide how I truly felt inside.

"When I found tennis it was like a door opened inside me and I could taste a special kind of freedom.

"On court there are so many other things to think about I can almost forget about the pain. When I’m pushing myself flat out and I get to a difficult ball, it feels like I’m flying."

Last month Ms Bard - whose father Rev Chris Bard wrote 'Bards Eye View' for The Guardian until his death ten years ago - entered her first National Wheelchair Tournament, and achieved the runners up medal for mixed doubles.

Unfortunately, the NHS wheelchair she uses is heavy and she is unable to travel independently with it.

Now she is fundraising to buy a completely portable wheelchair with a motorised add-on so she can travel to tournaments.

Ms Bard added: "People have been so kind and supportive. It leaves me quite emotional at how generous people are.

"For the first time in a long time I have started to feel good about myself. I appreciate every penny that’s been contributed to help me regain my independence. People are truly wonderful."

To donate, go to uk.gofundme.com/wheelchair-tennis-sarah