Power Chair Users - John

John Hepworth

I have a C4 incomplete injury and I use a power chair.

I was 60 when I was injured in France at a family gathering. We were playing football when I reached for the ball and had a hyper extension of the spine. I was first taken to a hospital in Marseilles, and then flown over to the UK where I spent the next 9 months at Pinderfields Hospital. I thought I would never be able to enjoy my passion for the mountains and the great outdoors again.

My first connection with Back Up was when Stuart, a member of their Outreach and Support team, came to do a wheelchair skills session at the hospital. I didn’t get my power chair until after I was discharged so I just went and watched the session and chatted to Stuart.

In August 2009 I went on a multi activity course. I was very sceptical before the course. On the journey there I shared my doubts with my wife Teresa. The whole thing sounded ridiculously daunting, I couldn't even eat or drink by myself, so how was I going to abseil, camp or sail! But that week turned out to be the best thing I could have done after such a traumatic 18 months. I did all the things I thought were impossible and more. The course opened my eyes to a world I thought closed to me forever. My everlasting memory is the one of the simple pleasure of just sitting on the grass amidst the mountains surrounded by the half dozen or so people who had made this all possible. The camaraderie in the group was something very special.

Back Up also matched me with a fantastic mentor called Barry. I hadn’t had much opportunity to speak to other tetraplegics. Barry’s joviality and positivity are allied to a steely determination to achieve remarkable things despite his very high level of injury. Not only did Barry pass on to me his knowledge and experience of a future in a wheelchair, but he convinced me that life was still there to be enjoyed. It is not always easy to keep positive but I do certainly give it a go, as Barry says: "Bring it on!"

Recently I became a volunteer wheelchair skills trainer, and I have gone back to Pinderfields to help out with the Back Up sessions there. It’s great for me to have the opportunity to give something back.