I had just turned 41 when I acquired my spinal cord injury; I have a complete injury at T10 and use a manual chair.
It was caused by a rare combination of two illnesses, which devastated my nervous system, put me in a coma, and ultimately damaged my spinal cord at T10. So, that was me in a wheelchair and struggling to make sense of the direction my life had taken. How could I be a proper husband and father now? How could I realise my hopes and dreams for the future …. and did I even have a future?
I initially came across Back Up following my transfer to the spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville. I attended a Wheelchair Skills course run by Stuart and by the end of the day I could back-wheel balance – fantastic! My confidence levels went through the roof and my two young children were in awe of my new trick. My wife was more worried than impressed, but quickly saw the real and practical benefits of my new-found skills and independence.
Stuart stayed in contact and proved to be a fantastic support. Being able to talk and listen to an experienced wheelchair user was amazingly reassuring and a lifeline when it was most needed. It was clear that being in a wheelchair wasn’t as limiting as it initially appeared and life didn’t just go on, it could flourish. I learned more about the charity and was hugely impressed by their way of challenging people with an spinal cord injury to reclaim their lives and make the most of their potential.
I have since been on two Back Up courses, a multi-activity week in Exmoor and the Back Up to Work course in London. In different ways, both courses helped me to move forward with confidence and huge optimism for the future. It was also brilliant to spend time with other wheelchair users, share stories and learn from our collective experiences. I’ve also attended several of the epic occasions that are the Back Up Ball; such a fantastic and inspirational celebration of people living life to the full. As Mohammed Ali said, “Don’t count the days, make the days count”.