Top marks in his GCSEs - and Oliver didn’t even put pen to paper

By Charlotte Oliver, August 29, 2014

Oliver Sapier’s mother describes him as a “fighter” – a modest appraisal, given his story of triumph.

Born with a chronic bowel condition, the 16-year-old spent the first years of his life in hospital, where doctors were not sure he would live beyond his second birthday.

But he fought back, and last week proved his “mind-over-matter” approach had paid off when he attained three A*s, six As and two Bs in his GCSEs.

Remarkably, Oliver, a pupil at the Grammar School of Leeds (GSAL), did it all without using a pen. After breaking his hand a week before his exams, he dictated every answer to an external examiner.

“The most difficult part was having to say all the punctuation marks, like full stops and commas,” he said.

He said his high marks came as a surprise, despite the fact that he worked hard and virtually gave up his social life for six months.

Growing up in Alwoodley, Leeds, his temperamental health meant he missed large periods of time from school.

This, coupled with the fact that he is fed overnight five times a week via a tube, meant academic success was not a high priority.

“I was often tired and in pain,” he said. “But in the last two years, I pulled that around and knuckled down.”
Extra motivation came last year after doing a 50-mile bike ride for charity.

“I’ve always felt like people look down on me and that I’m not capable,” he said. “But doing the bike ride proved that even if you have a condition — even if it drains you of energy or you’re in pain — you can do anything.

“I donated the money to Ward L42 at Leeds Children’s hospital, where I spent a lot of time. They were often low on resources.”

Oliver credits his mother, Tracy, and three siblings, Charlotte, Ashleigh and Daniel, for helping him succeed. The family, who belong to the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds, have always encouraged him to live for the moment.

“You never know what will happen, but it’s best not to worry,” he said. “If I don’t have much pain today, I’ll take advantage of it. If I’m in pain tomorrow, I’ll get through it.”

Mrs Sapier said: “I am just blown away by him. He is amazing. I’ve always said that no matter what , I’ll be proud. But he has totally excelled himself ­‑— I am absolutely over the moon.”

Last updated: 9:53am, August 29 2014