Natalie Trice enjoyed a high-flying PR career in London for over a decade, but when her second son was diagnosed with hip dysplasia (DDH) life changed forever and in ways she could never have imagined. Here, she discusses family life in Devon, writing her new book, founding a charity and finding silver linings.
Did you always want to be an author?
Yes, but I took a pretty roundabout route to get there. Following a year of teaching English in Tokyo after I graduated, I headed to London and fell into PR. During my career I’ve worked with brands including Cartoon Network, CNN, Sense, Discovery Channel, Earthwatch, Epson and T.M.Lewin as well as some inspiring entrepreneurs and start-ups.
I love PR and after more than 20 years it’s in my blood. I love seeing how it changes perceptions, educates people, creates debate and, of course, helps business and organisations grow and thrive and nothing beats seeing your client covered in the media. But, what I love the most are words and writing them.
So, how did the book deal come about?
I would like to say it was a Carrie Bradshaw moment while typing away in a Manhattan apartment drinking a martini, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My second son, Lucas, was diagnosed with Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) following a scan at four months – something I pushed for as I knew things weren’t right. We went from baby massage and soft play to endless appointments, x-rays and surgery schedules in 24 hours, all with a toddler in tow. What struck me in those lonely, anxiety riddled early days was the massive lack of information and support for parents. Each time we hit a new hurdle with Lucas, there have been many, something inside me said this needed to change, and if you want to see change, sometimes you have to make it happen yourself. So, I did.
A baby in a body cast isn’t ideal for meeting clients, or deadlines, so I gave up my business, looked after my sons and took a course in non-fiction book writing. By the end of the course I had written the proposal and started approaching agents and publishers. I got five rejections, but one dull November afternoon that one email saying yes, came back from Nell James Publishing. The first draft of Cast Life – A Parent’s Guide to DDH was written in less than three months and now sells around the world on a daily basis with endless media coverage – my PR background has been so helpful for spreading the word.
What does Cast Life cover?
In a nutshell, Cast Life covers everything you need to know about DDH. From the symptoms and explanations of the condition to the treatments involved, it’s all there. It looks at the reality of life when your child is in a cast as well as the emotional side of DDH, an area that is often overlooked. It doesn’t bombard the reader with medical jargon, but gives them with the knowledge and facts they need to get to grips with DDH.
The foreword was written by Professor Nicholas Clarke – who recently retired from the University Hospital of Southampton – which was a huge honour, and parent stories bring the pages alive and make it real.
How did becoming an author change your life?
I wish my son had never had to deal with DDH, and sometimes wonder how my marriage and sanity have survived, but Cast Life became the silver lining to all the pain and heart ache that he, and we, have suffered. Becoming an International selling author has changed my life immeasurably. As well as regular columns in parenting publications, I started to write about DDH as well as parenting and lifestyle topics for various publications, websites.
I now sit on the advisory board of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, have links with various surgeons and hospitals around the world, speak at events and conferences and I also set up DDH UK.
Tell us more about DDH UK
DDH UK is a charitable trust that not only raises awareness of hip dysplasia but also fills a crucial void in the support people need.As well as the website, we have a 24/7 closed Facebook group with admins around the world so that people don’t have to be alone. We aren’t medical professionals, but we do have medics on the team, but we are passionate and compassionate parents and carers who understand the highs and lows of this chronic condition. Whether it is pre-op nerves, disappointment at surgery not working or other not understanding just what is going on – someone, somewhere in the world is on hand to help, to signpost to information or just offer comfort in what can be very dark times.
Via our ongoing fundraising activities, we offer support the paediatric ward at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where Lucas has been treated for nearly nine years and continues to be cared for as his journey is ongoing. We treat families and siblings who some time out when the pressure is on by sending them out for dinner, taking them to the cinema or simply buying mums coffee and cake so they can have a rest.
We also have the support of Gemma Almond, an outstanding Paralympic swimmer with bilateral DDH, and we have made some amazing friends from all over the world and Lucas knows that he has been instrumental in this and it’s given him a real sense of pride.
How do you find juggling motherhood, a career and a charity?
The boys are now 8 and 10 and pretty good at entertaining themselves when I need to be working but we also have a lot of fun together and are a brilliant team. I am lucky that I can work from my home office and if I do have to go into town or to events, my husband does the school run, cooks the tea, as well as walking the dogs and ensuring everyone does their teeth.
I have an amazing team of volunteers who help keep DDH UK growing and in 2018 we are looking at more fundraising events, more awareness raising and I really want to put this condition on the medical map for once and for all.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on my next book, ‘The PR Toolkit for Authors’ which I am already working on promoting. I also have a range of fabulous PR and writing clients and in 2018 I will also be rolling out a series of workshops for businesses who want to do their PR themselves, or at least find out what it’s all about.
You live in Devon; do you miss London?
Yes! I left a little piece of my heart in the capital and try to jump on the train as often as I can. It’s great to go and meet friends and my sister, and to get a Selfridges fix, but nothing beats sand in your shoes, coffee by the sea and a less hectic pace of life.
When you’re not working what do you enjoy doing?
I love walking on the beach with my dogs, drinking coffee at The Clipper in Shaldon and nothing beats a good novel or an episode of Made in Chelsea.
What moto do you live life by?
Buy the shoes, drink the vodka and enjoy life because you don’t know what is round the corner.
- ‘The PR Toolkit for Authors’ will be out in late 2018 and more details can be seen about Natalie at www.natalietrice.co.uk